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Updated on: Thursday, November 18, 2021, 10:06 PM IST

The Millennial Pilgrim: Why 'live in the moment' is not a cliched antidote to anxiety

For a species that is designed to work towards a "better" future, commitment to the present moment and acceptance of "what is" are the most difficult tasks to accomplish. It doesn't come naturally to us and that's why we need to learn how to do it and create safe sanctuaries inside our body even in times of external hostilities - situations which are beyond our control
Photo: Pixabay

Photo: Pixabay

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That we live in the age of anxiety is a truism. There is a free-floating sense of worry that can grip us at any moment of our life. Anything can be a trigger to unleash that dreaded sensation of not knowing what one is feeling, but it is also accompanied by the underlying understanding that something is not right.

This kind of anxiety is usually triggered when things aren't going particularly right in our life, when there is an impending exam or an interview or any kind of possibility of evaluation, when things are not clear, when a major change is taking place in our life.

The bottom line is free floating anxiety can attach to something related to our physical appearance: "I am suddenly gaining weight" to something related to what our boss might have said during the meeting.


In such a scenario one has to always come to the present moment. "Live in the moment" may seem like cliched advice. But it's the best option available when you are in the middle of a crisis, a major life-changing event, or an uncertain circumstance in life.

This is not to deny that our cognitive abilities are designed to think of the future. We operate on the edifice of hope, the possibility of a better future, a solid plan about the course of our life. It is practically impossible to live our lives without a plan for the future. And that is why probably all the talk about living in the present to alleviate anxiety comes across as hollow and ineffective.

Also, it is important to understand what living in the moment actually means. Living in the moment doesn't mean that we blow up all our savings for a trip to the Bahamas. It is not about abdicating responsibility after reading an emotional post on "you only live once" or "carpe diem". I have always believed these to be marketing strategies to appeal to the unpredictable side of you that could spend a thousand bucks on whim.

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Let's get this straight. Living in the moment doesn't mean splurging, or doing something wanton that we would regret later. That at best is spontaneity, and sometimes it could simply mean naivete. Living in the moment has only one connotation and that is unadulterated presence and commitment to "what is". It entails acceptance of the most brutal truths about our situation, the suspension of denial and doing away with the constant need to feel better.

For a species that is designed to work towards a "better" future, commitment to the present moment and acceptance of what is, are the most difficult tasks to accomplish. It doesn't come naturally to us and that's why we need to learn how to do it and create safe sanctuaries inside our body even in times of external hostilities - situations which are beyond our control.

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How to experience presence

1. Breathe
2. Feel each part of your body in a resting position
3. Look at everything in your room without attaching any meaning or memory to it.
4. Look at a horizontal landscape. Increase the threshold of your peripheral vision.
5. Chant. You don't need to be spiritual to chant a mantra. You can create a mantra of your own. But it has to be something very powerful for you to sit and focus on.
6. Visualize. Often visualising a scenario that's comforting is far better than constant negative self-talk and over thinking.

Finally, when everything is going right in our life, plan ahead. When a crisis strikes, get back to taking it one day at a time, one moment at a time.

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Published on: Sunday, November 21, 2021, 07:00 AM IST
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