Living in the present moment is a mantra that we have all been confronted with one day. This idea finds its source in several philosophical currents, but it is above all Buddhism that has made it a central element of its practice.
Often, we find that this concept is too far removed from our lives, which can be both tumultuous and cluttered. Being interrupted in one’s work and not having complete control over one’s time makes it difficult to put this principle into practice. This is not strange since this concept comes from the East, and is strongly influenced by contemplative, ascetic and naturalistic notions. How can we live in the present moment when our environment and our way of life are the antithesis of that of Buddha the hermit?
In my opinion, I believe that it is futile to try to live the present moment in the way that Eastern monks did and still do. Sure, their living environment can be frenetic at times when their congregations are near or in the cities, but they almost always enjoy a bubble of comfort provided by their monastery where they can “withdraw from the world” for several hours to “do nothing”.
The idea here is to take this principle and adapt it to our modern lives by adding another ingredient. Living in the present moment means losing the notion of time. Since the present is the only reality we experience in a sensory way, it is not wrong to say, as Buddhists do, that the past or the future do not exist. To live without the awareness of time is difficult outside of contemplative tasks unless we take into account the notion of flow, developed by the psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihály. According to Wikipedia, it is a mental state reached by a person when he or she is completely immersed in an activity and is in a maximum state of concentration, full engagement and satisfaction in its accomplishment. Basically, flow is characterized by the total absorption of a person by his occupation. In flow, emotions are not only contained and channeled, but in full coordination with the task at hand […] The distinctive feature of flow is a spontaneous feeling of joy, even ecstasy during an activity.
The word ecstasy is interesting since it finds its etymology in the Greek to mean “out of oneself”, which is also one of the primary goals sought by meditation. The present moment can be lived fully, paradoxically by fleeing from it (through intense action). This is contrary to meditation, which seeks to live in the present moment by embracing it completely through awareness and abstraction from the external world.
Thus, living in the present moment can be achieved by two ways, one more direct which is accessible to all those whose life can be organized around meditative periods. For the rest of the people who are not so lucky, there is an indirect method they can take advantage of (through flow), it is what we could call the shifted present moment.
Of course, the prerequisite for the indirect method is not to be interrupted in the task in order to be able to enter it in depth. This implies working in longer blocks of time.