What does it mean to stay present?
It means being able to bring our minds to the present moment, away from the past, future, and various thoughts. It can be summarized as conscious and intentional actions, experiencing everything in its entirety. The ability to stay present enables us to be aware of the things that we do, our emotions and thoughts, analyze what is happening around us, know our desires and goals, and keep our behavior under control. The goal of staying present is essentially not to be “ghafil” (heedless.) Why is it important to stay present? What problems do we face if we do not do so? What are the ways to live consciously? How can we achieve this awareness? In this article, we will discuss these questions.
Staying present allows us to be aware of our current emotions and thoughts. This enables us to better understand ourselves, discover the raw materials of our problems, and therefore generate healthy solutions. To see our emotions and thoughts as they are, we need to stay present, put them in front of us calmly and examine them.
When you spread this state of alertness, expressed as “Mindful,” to your entire life as a state awakeness, you know what your thoughts and desires are, you know which ones are implanted in you and which ones are truly yours, and you choose whether or not to follow them. You become truly aware of what you think and how you feel. You are in control of your own behavior.
What makes it difficult to stay present?
The ability to be present is a skill that can be cultivated, but for some individuals, it may be underdeveloped. This could potentially be a form of avoidance. As it may be difficult to confront challenging situations, we may instead resort to fleeing from them. Nowadays, we live in a fast-paced era and culture where we often seek quick solutions to our problems and perceive difficulties as problems. Even the slightest feeling of boredom may lead us to seek instant gratification. Consequently, developing the capability to remain present in the moment can also enhance our resilience and strengthen our character.
How does not being present hurt us?
First of all, you don’t fully experience the experience you are having because you are not actually there. In the end, existence comes into existence with awareness. When you are not aware of your surroundings and yourself, that moment seems to disappear. On the other hand, you allow your thoughts and emotions to control you.
While you are immersed in the music you are listening to, you are not aware of what you are doing, you walk on a road and you see that the road is over but you do not even remember that process. Maybe you missed a good opportunity. A good idea, an important thought or an emotion that will come to your mind in the natural flow of your mind… A sincere greeting to someone on the way. In fact, you impoverish your life.
These may be small examples, when we think of the big picture, this situation causes not knowing oneself, being disconnected from oneself and from life. The fact that we don’t know the answers to some basic questions about ourselves is perhaps related to our lack of contemplation and not staying in the moment while we live.
So why stay present?
The term “murakabe” explains our motivation as Muslims: being aware that Allah is watching you at all times, remembering him and finding peace in this rememberance. This is a way to reach “ihsan”, which means to do a behavior in the best way possible.
Our Prophet would often go into seclusion, do i’tikaf, return to himself five times a day, and probably be present most of the time. Actually living the life and not just staying alive, is the main purpose of these practices, and the practices that provide this strengthen our ties with our values by making us a more conscious human being.
What could be the practical solutions?
• First of all, we can focus on our body to keep ourselves in the moment. We can listen to our heartbeats, pray and talk to Allah by taking deep breaths and placing our hands on our hearts.
• We can examine our surroundings, listen to sounds or pay attention to smells. Using our five senses is the most fundamental and most powerful way to bring our mind to the present moment.
• When you notice that you are feeling bad or uncomfortable with something, it is good practice to just stand still for a little while instead of doing something that will distract you and take you away from there. To realize what happened, what you thought and how you reacted right before this feeling. And you need to consider alternative behaviors to just escaping right away.
• In fact, we can all perform our prayers as a practice of “returning to the moment” because prayer is a form of worship where we slow down and stay in the moment and connect with Allah. After each prayer, we can sit and contemplate for five or ten minutes.
• Contemplation, thinking about our wrong doings, the universe, beings, nature, creations, oneself and Allah; It means learning lessons from the creations of Allah and the order in the universe. In fact, it’s the best way not to be “ghafil”(heedless). Islam emphasizes contemplation as a form of worship that will strengthen our belief.
When we look at the solution suggestions I listed, we can see that the ability to stay present is actually related not only to psychological resilience but also to faith. Finally, let’s remember that the development of this skill requires consistent effort and practice, and it is best to focus on keeping the effort to be consistent by accepting the occasional need to escape and neglecting these practices.
Reference: Rania Awaad, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lLiqDFjOhE