Overcome Suffering with Presence

DenaNovember 2, 2010

Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry—all forms of fear—are caused by too much future and not enough presence. —Eckart Tolle

It’s no secret that I’ve been suffering. October has been rough. In addition to losing two pets, I’ve endured two painful injuries (shoulder & back) and I’ve been having a hell of a time focusing, creating, and just keeping my head above water.

I’ve been so consumed by grief that I’ve lost sight of the most important element of my happiness: presence. I’m working to get myself back on track. Here is how I am doing it and how you can do it, too.

Sometimes it’s important to look ahead. For example, when you are plotting out long-term financial goals. However, as necessary as it may be to think “big picture” sometimes, it’s even more important that you don’t do it all the time.

Likewise, thinking backward in time can be just as harmful. Looking ahead and looking behind remove you from the present moment. Living in the past causes depression; living in the future causes anxiety. When we live in the past we experience regret (“shoulda, coulda, woulda…”). When we live in the future we experience worry (“what if…?). The cure for this suffering is to live in the present moment.

If you are like most people you, have a difficult time “turning off” your thoughts. Compulsive over thinking is a disease many people suffer from. Constant thoughts rush through our minds. We live in a society that bombards us with information from every angle. We multitask and run ourselves ragged. Add a few minor (or major) tragedies to the mix and it’s a recipe for disaster.

So how do we combat this disease? How do we put an end to our personal suffering? There are 4 keys to set us on the path toward living in the present and overcoming emotional suffering:

  1. Goal setting
  2. Reflection
  3. Meditation
  4. Positive thinking (CBT)

1. Goal setting.

Big picture/long-term thinking is an easy path to anxiety and compulsive over thinking. This type of thinking should not happen sporadically. It’s not healthy or helpful to think this way throughout your day. When you are at work, you should be focusing on work. When you are at the gym, you should be focusing on your workout. When you are having dinner, you should be focusing on eating. When you are talking with a friend, you should be focusing on your conversation. You should not be thinking about: how much weight you need to lose; how much money you need to save; how much work you have to do to switch careers; how long it will take to pay down your debts; and so on.

If you are thinking about these things randomly or obsessively throughout the day, you are causing yourself major harm. You are living on autopilot when you should be living consciously. The way to beat this problem is to practice mindful goal setting.

Set specific time aside to work on setting goals. Clear everything else from your space (physically and mentally). Allow yourself to focus exclusively on the task at hand: goal setting and do not allow yourself to be distracted. You will be amazed by how much more clear your goals become when you give them the attention that they deserve.

2. Reflection.

Living in the past is useless. Of course it’s important to learn from the past, to grow, to become a better person for it, and so on. But if living in the past is causing you stress, worry, and anxiety—which in most cases it is—then you’re doing it wrong.

Just as with goal setting, it is critical that you do not live in the past throughout the course of your life. Instead, set specific time aside to reflect. Reflection is very different than obsessive fretting over what happened before. Unlike worry, angst, and regret, reflection allows us to look at our personal history with a sharp eye. When you reflect you can consider the past mindfully with an open heart. You can accept the past without regret. Allow your mind to be full of gratitude & love for what has happened to bring you to where you are today. Every experience is another step in the journey.

Reflection allows us to move forward and create a better reality. Reflect, do not regret.

3. Meditation.

Meditation is perhaps the simplest, most effective path to happiness; but sadly it is also one of the most under-used! Meditation does not have to be a major production wherein you sit Indian-style on a colorful mat, light candles, and chant sacred scripture. In fact, meditation can be as simple as picking a quiet spot, closing your eyes, and clearing your mind for ten minutes. Yes, it’s really that simple.

Give it a try. Set aside just ten minutes each morning or evening. Find a quiet place to sit down. Close your eyes and clear your mind for ten minutes. If you find a thought popping into your mind—which you inevitably will in the beginning—just push it away. Deal with it later. Mediation is inner silence.

You will be amazed by how this simple practice transforms your entire state of well-being.

4. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).

CBT sounds complex but in reality it’s simple. It is the process of isolating your negative, irrational thoughts and turning them into positive, rational thoughts.

Yes, it is simple in theory but it’s a difficult practice to master. Once you do master it, you will be closer to living the life of your dreams than you ever imagined possible. I’ve written about CBT at length already, so check this out for more: Cognitive Behavior Therapy Saved My Life.

Following these 4 paths: goal setting, reflection, meditation, and positive thinking will transform your life. Once you get started on the journey, you will find yourself living in the present moment more than you ever thought possible. Not only will you live in the present, but you will experience gratitude for it. Your entire perspective will shift toward positivity and light.

Right now, the weight of worry and compulsive over thinking may be causing you to live a negative, reactive life. But with perseverance and effort as outlined in this post, you will find yourself moving toward a positive, proactive life in no time at all.

Are you willing to put in the effort to create the life of your dreams? Do you ever suffer from compulsive over thinking? Do you set time aside to consciously set goals? Let me know in the comments!

Comments (7)

  • Dena Botbyl

    November 2, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    [NEW POST!] evolution you | Overcome Suffering with Presence http://bit.ly/9dhBKr

  • Dena Botbyl

    November 2, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    New post: Overcome Suffering with Presence http://fb.me/IPiWmZ3I

  • Dena Botbyl

    November 2, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    Living in the past causes depression; living in the future causes anxiety. http://bit.ly/9dhBKr

  • Dena Botbyl

    November 7, 2010 at 11:27 pm

    In case you missed it: Overcome Suffering with Presence http://bit.ly/9dhBKr

  • roberta

    February 23, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    loved this one dena….this is a problem i always have suffered with…thinking about the past and always always worrying about the future…this was great information to help with this problem ..now to try and do it… will be my challenge…

    1. Dena

      February 23, 2011 at 1:35 pm

      @ Roberta – Thank you so much for stopping by & leaving a comment. I truly believe that most people suffer from the “worry” disease. It is something that we start doing at a young age & continue to do all our lives. I really hope that this advice helps a bit & I look forward to hearing how you do. I have so much confidence in you!


  • pauline

    April 1, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    Nice advices. My brain always is thinking what to do with my future after college. And I often care too much about grades. These cause me a lot of stress and anxiety in college. Your article really showed some ways for relief. i will give this a try. Your words are really inspiring.

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