Why You Should Not Live In the Moment

Meditations in Motion

I watched a woman give birth this week. On television.

Every time I watch a momma giving birth, even on TV, I cry. Every. Single. Time.

This week, I did not give in to ugly sobbing. My eyes misted up a little bit. OK, a lot. I don’t know why this happens. There is just something so primal and powerful about birthing a new life into the world that always moves me to tears.

Maybe I am remembering my own pregnancies and deliveries (three of them).

When I was pregnant, I, like most women, anxiously awaited the birth of my babies. I waited through the queasy first trimester, the golden second trimester, and the ungainly third trimester.

And then I waited some more.

All of my children were born past their due dates. Two weeks, three weeks, and a whopping three-and-a-half weeks for my oldest, youngest, and middle sons respectively.

Oh, I was tested regularly to make sure the babies were not under stress. None of them were and none of them were unreasonably large; they all tipped the scale in the seven- pound range when they were born.

It simply took me longer to grow a baby than the average pregnant woman.

At the time, it seemed to me as if I would be nine months pregnant for the rest of my life. I could not foresee a future where I would not have a huge belly and waddle to the bathroom five times a night.

Time narrowed its focus to include only the present.

I did, of course, eventually have the babies. I was not nine months pregnant for the rest of my life. The boys were born, grew up, and I got my un-pregnant body and some free time back.

Then I began running.

Meditations in Motion
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Half marathons were soon a regular feature on my calendar. One of the half marathons I attended featured a speaker at the pre-race pasta dinner I had never heard of, a young runner who had just broken the American half marathon record, Ryan Hall.

Ryan Hall, of course, went on to become one of our country’s greatest distance runners of all time, but at this pasta dinner, he was a relative unknown. As he stepped up to the podium to give his speech he looked extremely nervous and impossibly young.

My expectations for his ability to give a good motivational speech were pretty low. But I was wrong. His speech was incredible.

One of the best lines was this: “Enjoy the mile you’re running right now.

I loved that line and thought of it often during longer races.

When you’re at mile 12 of a marathon (26.2 miles), you have already run a long way. If you think about the miles you have already run, it’s easy to get tired. Thinking about the miles you have left to run may lead to discouragement.

Enjoying the mile you’re in makes sense. Until it doesn’t.

When the mile you’re currently running in your life is painful or unpleasant or bitter or frustrating or traumatic or heartbreaking or…well, you get the idea…maybe it’s best not to focus on the mile you’re in right now.

You understand I’m not talking about running any longer, right?

Meditations in MotionSometimes it seems like a stressful situation will go on forever, just like I thought my pregnancies would, and it’s difficult to realize “this too shall pass“.

In this case, it may be best to consider the past and the future.

When living in the moment is miserable, it could help to remember how we dealt with distressing moments in the past and to employ similar strategies to alleviate current pain.

It may make sense to reflect on how we got to this miserable point so we can avoid comparable situations from now on.

It may be beneficial to simply remember that previous difficult times did eventually pass.

Asking ourselves “How do I want to remember this time in my life?” can help us to make informed decisions rather than acting impulsively.

When living in the moment is unbearable, it may be beneficial to plan for the future. Looking for a path out of the darkness can be the spark we need to catalyze movement in a positive direction.

The future may be hope.

Being present in our own lives is important, no question about it, and worrying about a future that we may or may not be able to control or suffering endless regret for a past we can’t change is how we forfeit the precious present.

Mindfulness is real and it is beneficial.

Thoughtful reflection about the past and planning with insight for the future, however, allow us to live intentional, productive, joyful lives in the “now“.

If only I would have realized that when I was nine-and-a-half months pregnant.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.Philippians 4:8

 

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116 comments

  1. Very interesting perspective! Running the mile you are in or the race you are running has helped me in the past. Sometimes, it’s a great mantra to get through a tough race or time but sometimes looking ahead can better assist you. Thanks for something to think about and for linking up

    Liked by 2 people

    • Running the mile I am in has definitely helped me too. When I can’t get out of the negative mental spiral it helps to think about past races where I was successful or remember my training. Thanks for hosting!

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  2. I think it mostly comes down to your attachment to the past/future. That it’s ok to have dreams, but not to be overly attached to them, to be crushed if they don’t happen. And also not to become to attached to the past, either, to the point that you are not being present in your current life.

    It’s not always easy, though!

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  3. I don’t know if we can avoid living in the bad moments, but staying optimistic can help manage anxiety and worry. I’m gearing up for a week with my parents; my dad does a lot of “if only I did this’; lots of complaining about the past. It’s got to be exhausting living like that–I know it exhausts me!

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  4. Hi Laurie, I felt immediately compelled to respond since I watched a woman give birth this week, too. My daughter gave birth to my grandson. Grateful beyond words. And, yes, tears shed. Great words of wisdom from young Ryan Hall. And great words of wisdom from you, “this too shall pass.” We definitely learn lessons every step of the way. Great post!

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  5. I have found, for myself at least, if I’m caught in an unpleasant moment (or week, month,season), I try to find something that I can learn from it. If there’s a lesson learned, then the pain or unpleasantness is (usually) worthwhile. Usually LOL. YIkes…all three of my kids were early…can’t imagine going past a due date ;-0

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    • Yes, I try to learn lessons from hard times too. I guess this is the one I learned form overdue pregnancies! And…I am just a teensy bit jealous of your early deliveries! 🙂

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  6. It is always important to remember “this too shall pass” – that line doesn’t just apply to wishful thinking when you have a kidney stone, but that everything will look better when our eyes open to a new day. Keep the faith; sometimes it’s all we’ve got.

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    • I am using the “this too shall pass” philosophy in regards to winter. The older I get, the more I need to remember warmer times when the cold winds blow and ice coats the streets and trails.

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      • Our weather has been erratic at least three entire years in a row that I can recall, especially as to Spring with the torrential rain and once again we have high water levels which are flooding the lakeshore parks. They are already forecasting a wet Spring and much flooding. But this Winter, as mild as it has been a lot of the time, it’s been too erratic for me … 30-degree discrepancies from one day to the next. I do remember days and days of going out in ice and snow when I worked on site and took the bus downtown – by February you thought Winter would never end.

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      • Yes. I missed them last year. I will probably miss them this year too. We will be gone almost the whole month of April – first to Morocco and Portugal, then to Colorado to babysit my grandson.

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      • Yes, my grandson is on spring break from school that week so we go out and babysit so that my son and daughter-in-law don’t have to use their vacation time. Our next couple of months are crazy!

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      • Is this new restriction on travel going to mess you up Laurie? First I heard no planes/travelers from Europe, then they walked that back and said Americans could travel without restrictions, but now travelers must self-quarantine for two week after going to a hub to be checked out. Does two weeks give you time before going to Colorado? Such scary times we live in now.

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      • I know it is a pain, but I’ve been following the news information and wondering about the fate of your trip, returning to the States without being quarantined, then being in Colorado to be with Atti … is it your daughter-in-law who has a job with the park … she won’t be working from home, but maybe your son will be? Things are so jumbled up right now. At least you can still plan and look forward to the Morocco/Portugal trip and hopefully you are not out of pocket for cancelling. A friend of mine had an upcoming Alaska Cruise on the Princess lines. She cancelled yesterday and was reimbursed 100% – I don’t know if she rescheduled at a later date. You have more time to learn Portuguese now (small silver lining in that cloud).

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      • My daughter-in-law actually works for the State of Colorado as a forester, so I think her job will not be affected. My son works for the public defender’s office in Steamboat Springs. I am not sure if his job has been affected or not. I am worried that if my grandson’s school closes they may have trouble finding daycare for Atti.

        We had to pay the price difference in the airline tickets we bought (there was about a $20 difference, so no big deal). I think travel companies are being liberal with reimbursements, which is a good thing.

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      • Yes, I am glad the travel companies are being liberal – you did well for your trip.
        There was a travel agent on the news today and he said some cruises or trips are allowing rebooking for the same trip until the end of 2021 – very reasonable. Oh, I didn’t think of the school closure due to the Coronavirus implications … Atti is too young to travel to see you unfortunately – you may have an extended stay there in Colorado. I think the bigger (federal) agencies likely will close first … what a mess this all is.

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      • It would be OK with me to have an extended stay in Colorado! 🙂 I was thinking we may even have to drive to Colorado if the airplanes are all grounded.

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      • I would like that extended trip too … convince yourself it is necessary since it takes a while to get acclimated to the altitude. I was thinking you might be driving too as air travel is quite the hassle these days.

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      • We discussed driving but Bill is not a fan. We will have to see what happens in the next few weeks. We may not get to make a choice.

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      • That’s great news Laurie – I wondered how that was going to work out – so that obviates the need to go to Colorado, unless you’re just going to visit then. I pictured you going there, getting Atti and bringing him home with you for months.

        Liked by 1 person

      • We would like to go just to visit but I am not sure what the travel restrictions will be by the end of April. We have airline tickets, but they are on Southwest, so you can change the date without added fees. I doubt whether we will make it out, which is so sad!

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      • I didn’t know Southwest had no issues with cancellations. I have not traveled by air in many years and do not even have a passport at present. It is sad and your busy agenda for travel and running events has slowed to a crawl, if not non-existent for months. The year 2020 will be memorable for all the wrong reasons unfortunately.

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  7. What a powerful reminder about how to handle stress! Mindfulness takes time and work to incorporate into our lives and put into practice. I don’t have headphones on when I race—I want to enjoy the moment and have conversations with other runners (I’m never at the head of the pack 😂). But you’re right, sometimes we want to forget, and that’s where reminiscing and anticipation come in!

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    • I never wear headphones when I run for the same reasons. I want to be present in what is happening around me. When the present moment is not great, remembering and anticipating can help us cope.

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  8. It’s easy to say live in the moment or focus in the moment or be in the moment, but as good as all of that sounds, I really don’t think it’s possible to do. Even if we detach from the past and try not to worry about the future, it seems as if we can’t exist without all three: past, present, future. Because as one moment goes, it almost immediately becomes the past and then we are in the moment of the present and then that passes quickly too and we move into the future moment. On and on it goes! I think the trick is to not get to too caught up in it and simply be observant.

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    • I don’t think it’s possible to do either. Humans are hardwired to think about the past and future. It’s how we have survived thousands of years. Being observant is a good attitude! 🙂

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      • My comment got accidentally sent before I was ready to send it but not sure what else I want to add, Ha ha. But I will add – Being observant and detached from our reactions, emotions, likes and dislikes positive and negative, which come and go like the seasons – also not always easy! 😂 We are creatures who feel! We are not automatons!

        As always a wonderful post. Each one you write I think is going to be my favorite and then another great piece of writing comes along like this one! It’s currently my favorite! 😹

        Susan Grace

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, I agree Susan. Detachment is not easy at all for me.

        Thank you so much for your very kind comment.

        So glad someone else hits the “send” button before they are ready too! 🙂

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  9. Funny, I was just thinking of this yesterday. I enjoyed every single mile of my half-marathon – but it isn’t always like that. Sometimes a run is horrible and life is horrible. And then we need good tools to get out of it. Thanks for this, Laurie!

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  10. it’s a good reminder. it’s very hard sometimes when you want to move on. and hard when you stay in a moment that maybe is not adding any value to the way you feel. Being mindful is a helpful way to find your way out and realise indeed that this too shall pass.

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  11. Sometimes when the present is really stressing me out, I remember previous stressful times but how they passed eventually. And sometimes I look forward to something in the future, doesn’t have to be a big event. But just something I know will feel good. But I love Sadje’s comment – always remembering what we take from both good and bad events or periods.

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  12. There are certainly those times when living in the moment are NOT beneficial for whatever reason. With the grands now living miles away, I’m focusing on the wonderful memories and hoping for a bright future in many visits with them during vacations.
    Blessings, Laurie!

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  13. This is a VERY good point, Laurie! Sometimes I think we adopt ‘advice’ in too black and white of a way. This post is case in point. Maybe it’s the memories of better times, or anticipating what’s promising in the days/weeks/months ahead that will get us through what might feel unbearable at the moment. My MIL always says, “It’s only temporary!” And that’s true, for better or worse! When it’s something GOOD that is only temporary, that helps me enjoy it while I’ve got it. Or, it reminds me that This too shall pass. Even if it feels like it won’t.

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    • Carolyn, I wrote this post as a response to the struggles of one of my sons who is going through a rough time. I wanted to tell him “this too will pass”. Your MIL sounds like a wise woman.

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  14. That’s such a good point. I’ve heard–or rather, read–young moms say something like this when older moms say, “Enjoy every moment; it goes so fast.” That’s not so much appreciated in the midst of sleepless nights, spit-up, blowout diapers, etc. Sometimes the best thought is “This too will pass.”

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  15. Often when life is great, time seems to pass very quickly. Not so great? It can feel like every minute is agonizingly slow. But, you are right: it too shall pass. I think the older we get, and we experience a lifetime of both good and bad times, the more we understand this. We all prefer the good times, but often we learn more from the bad, right? (Not that any of us wants too many of those lessons 🙂 .)

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    • I guess that’s why winter always seems to drag on forever and summer whizzes by in a flash! 🙂 Yes, we do learn from the hard times more than the good ones, unfortunately. Why are the most significant lessons so difficult to learn?

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  16. Laurie, I have at times, lived in the moment as I want to be present and enjoy every bit of the moment. There have also been times, when facing something difficult or unpleasant, that I look forward. At those times, I usually remind myself, “This time tomorrow (or some other point in time) this will be over or done.” It helps me to stay focused that where I may be today, is not where I will be forever. Your post made me realize how we need both, balance and perspective, to face the challenges of each day. I so appreciated this post!

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  17. Laurie,
    So true that when I am in the crucible of a trial, I don’t want to be present in the moment. I’d like anything but that. This is when it is good for me to look back – to see all the Ebenezers I’ve raised to God’s faithfulness in bringing me through the hard times. As for looking forward, I may not be filled with joy and hope at the moment, but I know God is with me in the struggle and sometimes it means just taking baby steps and putting one foot in front of the other until your running again. Great post!
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

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    • Yes, looking back can inspire us when we are in the midst of a difficult situation. God is with us always, especially in the hard times. I need to remind myself of that often. Thank you!

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  18. I come from a family of large babies – like 8 to 9 for my siblings and me and 12 lb for my sister’s son (yes she had to have surgery for that). Living in the moment can seem like an eternity or a blink of my eye. Pretty much I am an optimist and try to find happiness in life where I’m placed – not an easy task quite often.

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  19. I think it’s just a reminder there is no one rule for living your life. When I get a peaceful moment in nature for instance I do have to remind myself shut out the world and take this in, live for just this moment and renew. It is a powerful thing to do to shut out the world. However, I don’t live that way all the time, it is just a moment to relax and renew.

    Each situation requires different mental approaches. One can be just the right one for that situation but disastrous for the next. When I’m dealing with situations that require multiple solutions I can’t shut out the world I need people and structures in my world to solve most of the challenges. That moment of self isolation is not valuable at that moment. I draw on different skills, make different mental strategy choices.

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    • Living in nature is a powerful way to live in the moment. I have lived that plenty of times when I have focused all of my attention on finding and/or identifying a particular bird.

      You are so right – we each need to determine the appropriate response to the moment, whether to focus on the present or use a different strategy such as thinking about past or future happiness and success.

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  20. Laurie, what a great post! I tend to be one who wants to be completely present in each moment because my inclination is to try to escape the difficult ones and I know God has me there for a reason. But, I really like your idea of, when the moments we’re in are miserable, looking to the past, similar moments and how I handled them, especially looking for effective ways to navigate the present hard moments.

    I really appreciate how you defined this concept of living in the moment (and how to get through the hard ones). 🙂

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    • Thank you, Jeanne. I try to use that strategy in running and in life. It’s a little way to build confidence when I am somewhat lacking! 🙂

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  21. Great advice, full of wisdom and truth. I love the phrase, this too shall pass and used it a lot when I worked with teen girls. Now they are older women, some with grandchildren and when I see them we always talk about that phrase. In the moment so often it feel hopeless and like it will never be any different. As we grow, we go in and out of moments and no matter how mature we get in the Lord we still have to be reminded of this truth. Your post did that, thanks.

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    • Thank you so much! I needed that phrase when I taught high school. It helped me stay calm and in a positive frame of mind. How nice that you still see the girls (and their children and grandchildren) you used to work with.

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  22. It took me some time to figure it out/realize it, but I do like to focus one mile at a time. It came in handy this Sunday when I struggled so much in my race. I was just focused on finishing each mile. Right now I am trying to live in the moment. Life is too short. I try not to dwell too much about my mother’s stroke, but after it happened, I told myself I would do more fun things with her.

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  23. I find it of great interest how you share your experiences and thoughts. In the past almost 3 years living with my cancer diagnosis there have been many many moments I have not wanted to stay in but stay I have, because then they give way to another and then another. Mindfulness has helped steady me through MUCH I have disliked and for this I am grateful to the tools I can call on.

    Thank you for joining in Life This Week. Next week’s optional prompt is Share Your Snaps. Hope to see you linking up too. Denyse.

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  24. Laurie, I love your analogy here! Mile 12-13 of a marathon may be the hardest. Right there in the middle. Too far along to look back, and too far to go to see the finish line. Thank you for these encouraging thoughts!

    Thanks for linking up at InstaEncouragements!

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    • I think those are the hardest miles of a marathon too, Patsy. My friend thinks 18 – 19, but I think earlier. So many miles left to go! Thank you for hosting.

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  25. It can be soooo difficult to appreciate the here and now, especially when you are sporting a massive belly of baby! Little moments of thankfulness should never be ignored. Thanks for linking up with #globalblogging

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  26. Yes! In the midst of a hard time, I need to put my hope in the future! I’m all about living in the now, but sometimes now needs to include remembering the past and looking forward to the future. Great post, Laurie!

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    • Yes, I sort of wrote this for one of my sons who is going through a tough time right now. I wanted to tell him that there will be better days! Thank you, Lisa!

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