You’ve heard it a million times—the key to happiness is learning to live in the present moment.
It’s possible this motivated you to try a mindfulness practice and carve out time to quiet your busy mind, but you still haven’t yet found that calm and centered feeling you’re seeking. You might know what you’re supposed to do to live in the moment but you’re not sure if you’re doing it right.
Eckhart Tolle the author of the best-selling books, “The Power of Now” and“A New Earth,” explains that it’s our thoughts that keep us from
experiencing the present moment. In one of his many interviews with Oprah, (who has frequently recommended Tolle’s books) he describes the way our thoughts get in the way of really experiencing what is happening.
“Thinking can be a powerful and wonderful tool. It only becomes an affliction if we’re totally identified with it and we derive a sense of who we are from the thinking,” he says. “The little person in your head who keeps talking and talking isn’t you. Recognizing that that voice is not you is the real power of living in the now.”
You realize that the real “you” is actually the presence behind thinking, says Tolle. When this happens, you’re no longer possessed by the thinking mind. Instead, thinking should be seen as a helpful tool, not as your whole self.
Confusing your thinking with your real self, says Tolle, is the definition of ego. Ego is more than being selfish or arrogant or feeling superior. Ego is “the self-identification with the stream of thinking,” and it’s what prevents us from really experiencing the moment at hand.
How do you know when you’re letting your thoughts and your ego get in the way of living in the present? Here are a few warning signs:
- You’re telling yourself stories
Spinning explanations of why something happened or didn’t happen, jumping to conclusions about what someone else is thinking or contemplating why they’re acting one way or another are all things that prevent you from experiencing what is actually happening.
- You’re convinced that you are special
The need to be right, be better or even be the one who is suffering the most are ways in which your ego asserts itself and prevents you from truly listening to and being open to others.
- You’re fearful of losing
Whether it’s a thing, a relationship or something else that defines you, you’re caught up in the belief that who you are is based on your external circumstances.
- You’re stressing
Whether you’re worried about what happened or what might happen, your anxiety is a sign that you’re thinking too much and forgetting to simply see and deal with what’s right in front of you.
- You’re not listening
You’re not present for other people if you’re tuning them out or thinking about what you’re going to say next.
- You’re judging
That’s your ego again. When you measure yourself against others, you’re letting your thinking get in the way of really experiencing what’s happening.