One of the things that contributes to our psychological wellness is having a guiding principle. If you know what is most important to you, it will be easier for you to make decisions, prioritize your tasks, and spend your time doing what is most important to you. Think about what is most important – your family? Your health? Your work? Your bank account? Of course there are many things that are important. But can you identify which is number one? On what does all else depend? I suggest that it is your wellbeing.
We live in a complex society with information coming at us continuously. We tend to live in our mind, caught in our thoughts about the past and the future. But neither the past nor the future is in our control, and neither is real. We don’t realize how much it is a habit of being for us, how much it distracts us from real life, the life that is happening right now, right in front of us. We often don’t remember experiences or conversations, and this is because we were not paying attention to them at the time. We were lost in our thoughts or worries. The past is gone, the future is not yet here. Only this present moment is real. If we are fully focused on this moment, we will be available to experience life. Because these are not within our control, this often generates negative emotions – regret, anger, sadness, anxiety. We are caught in a loop of thoughts, the negative emotions that result, the negative thoughts these emotions trigger, and so on.
You may be very troubled right now, but can you remember experiencing a moment of wellbeing? Feeling calm and happy, content and fulfilled, filled with love or gratitude, for life, for a beautiful day, for friends and family. It may have been just a fleeting moment, standing at the edge of the ocean or walking through the woods. The smile of a baby or the laugh of a child. It may have been the relief from some suffering, some good news, perhaps some praise from a tough coach.
These moments tend to be rare. But we can cultivate them so that they become more common, so that we experience them more frequently. Life contains both suffering and joy. We can learn how to suffer less, and we can “water the seeds of joy.” We can train ourselves to turn our attention away from our thoughts of the past and the future, and our distress about the things we cannot control. We can practice attending to the present moment and finding the miracles of life, the love, the joy, that is there to be found even in the darkest places.