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Our Lives Are Not What We Think

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Last week I asked the readers a simple question: Where are you right now in your life, at this exact moment? I tried not to lead people to answer in any particular way, just to share the moment they’re in and how they felt about it.

I was blown away by the response. So many colorful little corners of time and space. Right now there are 140-some and counting, not including a few dozen sent in email form.

A lot of people said that it hadn’t really occurred to them to ask that very basic question (where the hell am I right now, exactly) and that it was quite a catharsis to take a minute or two to do just that.

Let’s get something straight

It’s hard to really observe the moment without its apparent context pushing in on it, that context being the rest of our lives, before and after. So the present moment’s apparent value is conditional on what it seems to mean for the rest of our moments.

We often can’t help but view the present moment in terms of what it means for other moments in the “chain” and for the character that needs them all to go a certain way. We forget that the only real fact to be had is the present moment, no matter what we think it is halfway-to, leading away from, or supposed to be.

So most of the time, we’re not really perceiving the physical details of the moment, we’re perceiving a sprawling mental map of what we think of our lives, of which the present is a small part. It feels like life is made of millions of moments like this, linked by cause and effect, extending each way from here and now. This leads to two huge problems: 1) a preoccupation with these imagined non-present moments, and 2) an astronomical devaluation of the present moment.

Of course, there are no non-present moments. Let’s get that straight before we go on: life is the present only. The past is thoughts in the present. The future is thoughts in the present. You can argue all you want that the past “existed”, but the notion of something having existed is also just a thought in the present.

The present is composed of experiences only. You can experience sights, smells, sounds, sights, feelings and thoughts. There is nothing else. This is life: the experience of the present moment, whether we’re occupied with the thought aspect of it, or the sensory aspect of it, or some of both. In most people, by adulthood the thought component takes over the other parts of experience. Contrary to how we normally experience life, our lives are not what we think.

Thoughts are completely useless except in how they suggest we act in the present moment. We know intellectually that the present moment is our only way of experiencing life, yet we let thoughts about what we experience become our primary experience, most of the time. Bad habit. Tragic really. But it’s normal.

About three years ago I had a bizarre experience during a family dinner which I now realize left me different forever. I won’t quite call it a Pandora’s Box effect, because it wasn’t evil that came out of the box (the opposite, really), and the box flops shut all the time when I get worked up or preoccupied. But let’s just say I could not go back to the same way of looking at ordinary moments even if I wanted to.

I published an article describing that experience and the insight it left me with, back when this blog had an audience that could fit on my couch. But as with so many of my articles I feel like I ended up taking a potent idea that could change a person’s life, and reducing it to a kind of neato thing that you might think about and forget by the weekend.

Maybe that’s what I’m about to do again, but I think I can bring a bit more clarity to it than I did before. Long-time readers might find some of this familiar.

The beginning of time, at the dinner table

I was sitting down to dinner with my mother and grandma, watching my hand as it speared chunks of potato and romaine salad with my fork, when I had a strange sensation. I was struck by the uncanny feeling that I had not really been there before that moment.

It was as if I had just been dumped there, into that moment, into those clothes, into that seat, into that unique but by all accounts unmemorable moment in some 28-year-old man’s life. After I had a second to think, I noticed that the moment came complete with a rich assortment of memories, relationships, knowledge and privileges. It felt like the universe had just rebooted, and that dinner scene was where I found myself when the picture returned to the screen.

I discovered I was in a warm dining room styled in beige and ebony, with two fascinating people and a very colorful plateful of food in front of me. The women, whom I seemed to recognize as my mother and her mother, were in the middle of a dialogue about applesauce.

It felt like I’d been in a cave my whole life. I had very strong senses of visitation and privilege, as if I was actually a long-dead soul who’d been given a precious chance to taste the richness of life again, but perhaps only for a few moments. For whatever reason, I was momentarily allowed to witness, with all five senses, the stunning array of colors on my plate, the indescribable tastes in my mouth, and the warm voices and vivid stories of the two ladies sitting with me. I was still a bit bewildered, but I knew intuitively that to squander that moment would be a crime.

Where I was before that moment, I don’t know. But it wasn’t in that room. It made me think about how short a human life is compared to the vast stretches of time that come before and after it. Each of us is supposedly only granted a relatively tiny window of about 0 to 100 years, through which we’re endowed with the precious gift of experience. As for the two oceans of time that bookend a life, nobody really knows what they are like, but it seems fairly certain that they do not contain the same richness of experience that we have at our fingertips in every single moment we are alive.

I have since noticed that I can usually cultivate that feeling at will. Unless I’m completely hijacked by some train of thought (which is fairly often), I can look at any moment as if I’ve just been dropped here, wherever I happen to be at that moment. The most immediate effect is that my focus shifts from what I’m thinking to what I’m experiencing. Fear becomes a more distant feeling and a playfulness emerges. It’s so bizarre — who put me in this complex and beautiful place?

That experience was an instance of ego disidentification, which is a dull way of saying I hadn’t lost my personality or my thoughts about that personality, but that they no longer seemed to be mine. I felt a familiarity with them, maybe an affection for them, but no investment in them. They were just there, like any other feature of the moment, such as objects on the table or the temperature of the air. Nothing there was me. I could look down at the table, see my hands and control them, but they still felt no more like me than the tablecloth. This is an incredibly liberating sensation.

To get a sense of what the hell I’m talking about here (if you don’t already) you might check out Die on Purpose, or reread it if you already have. It’s short.

Something incredible happens when you look at your present moment as if you’ve just dropped into it from somewhere else. The moment is so rich, if you’re not already taken by your dull, dismissive thoughts about it. And that ‘somewhere else’ — whether you think of it as death, nothingness, outer space, or some warm, black void – certainly does not offer anything close to the vast palette of sensations and possibilities of a real, living moment. And if you’re reading this, that’s what you have in front of you.

And you can’t really know that this isn’t the case. Whether you arrived at this moment as the culmination of a familiar backstory, or whether you were just plunked here, is irrelevant. Experiencing that sensation doesn’t require any make-believing, because if you had really just arrived into this moment from some black void somewhere, complete with backstory, you’d never know, because all you have with which to figure it out is the present, and all that is given in it. That’s the way it’s always been anyway.

This is not a drill

This is not some cheeky exercise in agnosticism where you reason that you can’t technically know for sure that your backstory isn’t imagined, just like you can’t know that there aren’t unicorns lurking everywhere you are not looking. We know you can’t experience the “past” except as memories, which only happen in the present. Your backstory is imagined. It’s a present-moment figment of your mind. It is thought.

Some might at this point want to whip out Occam’s Razor: the notion that the simplest explanation with the fewest assumptions is probably correct. But I would argue that the simpler explanation is not that some meandering backstory has driven you and parked you here, but rather that no matter what, life begins right here, and that only that which is given here and now can be presumed to be true.

And since life begins precisely here, you ought to take your cues from the present moment, as objectively as you can look at it. This means consciously downgrading the importance of the story you tell yourself about who you are, what you deserve and what you can expect, and instead cultivating an earnest curiosity about what is actually happening now.

Having said all that, I won’t argue the point any further, because it’s not a matter of believing that the moments leading up to this one are imagined. Convincing yourself of that will do no good, because that’s just more thinking about thinking. Putting this principle to use is matter of truly experiencing the reality that the present moment is all there is. The past feels real, but it is only a mental feature of the present moment.

An exceedingly peculiar fact

So stop. Look away from the screen again and absorb the details of your surroundings for a minute. The spectacle and feel of the moment. Then read on.

Can you see this moment as the very beginning? You’ve just been dropped into this scene, with this body at your disposal, with this mood and this apparent backstory as the coloring. You have an impression in your mind of how you got here, but that’s all it is, an impression. It’s a collection of mental images and preconceptions that fill out the storyline of the character you’ve suddenly found yourself to be in charge of.

Look at your hands. Pick something up and turn it over in your hands, and notice the experience of handling something. Way more interesting than nonexistence, if you’re there for it.

Who knows where you were, but you know now that you’ve been dropped here, you are capable of looking and feeling and deciding — and most importantly — you know that you don’t know how long you’ll be visiting here. This is not to be taken for granted. To be able to experience at all is a privilege. It can be taken away at any time.

Everything there is, everything we know, hinges on this one bizarre, transient condition — existence — which just happens to be your current reality. We regard the miracle of existence as a goldfish regards water, which means we don’t regard it at all. But if you think about it, it’s an exceedingly peculiar fact — that we exist.

Whenever you feel stuck in a backstory, in a corner turning in on itself… BOOM, some unknowable cosmic lottery has spit you out right here and now, in this chair, in this situation, in this form. Figure it out from here with whatever is given in the moment. The backstory is just mental dressing, not important, because you are alive and you can do things.

Thoughts about the backstory will arise. Like all thoughts, they are just passing features of the present, in the same category as warm air, broccoli, upholstered dining chairs and birds chirping. Let them, just don’t mistake thoughts about your reality for your reality itself. They are never the same thing, no matter where you believe you came from.

Use them as guides and tools, those thoughts, but don’t use them as a dependable assessment of the present. They are just thoughts, which are fleeting features of the present. They’re the notes in the margin. Sometimes helpful, often way off base, and eternally pulling you out of the actual prose and into some analysis about it.

Your experience is entirely here. The present contains the past and future, not the inside-out way we’re used to thinking about it.

As Douglas Harding reminds us, “Isn’t it the very last thing we feel grateful for — having happened? You needn’t have happened. But you did happen.”


Photo by qmnonic

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Nevill Wilder June 3, 2011 at 12:40 am

The following question changed me forever:

If you suffered complete amnesia, would any of the insecurities, issues, or problems caused by something that happened in your past have any affect on you? No? Then why are you allowing them to run your life?

Nadia June 7, 2011 at 3:40 am

But you can’t be sure with this “no” answer. Sometimes our mistakes returns to us when we already forgot about them!

Kris April 2, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Interestingly enough, when I was taking in my environment during the break in the post, I found myself caught up with some wood above my stove. This wood is there as spacers for some fireproofing in progress.

When I installed the stove, the back burner was too close to the deck above it, and presents a fire hazard if used without fireproofing. I resolved to not use the back burner until I’d installed some fireproofing. This was about 6 years ago. I finally got started on the fireproofing because, as happy as I am to simply not use the back burner, I have an upcoming insurance survey, and if the surveyor mentions to the insurance company that the back burner on the stove is a fire hazard, they’re probably not going to accept “but I don’t use the back burner” as an excuse for leaving the hazard in place.

So I have this problem from my past (that I haven’t finished installing the fireproofing necessary to make my stove’s back burner safe) which, if I were to forget about it, could leave me homeless if I forget to not use the back burner and start a fire (or at least unable to cook my own food at home if I neglect to finish it before the insurance company demands to have it fixed).

I must remember that I have been burning the wood I’ve chopped, and drinking and washing with the water I’ve carried. If I forget that I continue to need to chop wood and carry water, than I shall freeze, thirsty and in squalor.

Jim June 3, 2011 at 4:30 am

Wow, such an interesting way for an insight to appear.

When you realise that no thought is reality, and then realise that the self thought is just that, a thought, selfless living becomes reality.

Mike June 3, 2011 at 6:41 am

Love the title – “Our Lives Are Not What We Think”

Follow the Harding bit to the root and you’ll see “You Are Not What You Think”, or more like “‘You’ Are Thought”.

Great article! When’s the book coming out?

michi June 3, 2011 at 7:26 am

I stopped believing in the past, at some point several years ago. If it was more than 10 minutes ago, I don’t take it on faith that it really happened. So liberating! A result, I think, quite similar to your experience.

When I tell this to my friends they often think I’m being facetious or make fun of me, but whatever. I mean, the past is LIKELY to have happened, or happened SOMEWHAT like how I remember, but it is not certain.

“Why?” people ask. I say that our minds rewrite the stories every time we revisit them in our minds, our memories are far from perfect, and really, why not? I don’t always want these past things coloring and tainting my present experience. (Also I have been diagnosed with a seizure condition that distorts my memory for about an hour at a time, so I learned not to trust it.)

And the future, of course, is unknown, so no use worrying too much about that one! :D

What I mean is: Great post. Well executed, as per usual. :D

Kyle Hale June 6, 2011 at 10:19 am

“I stopped believing in the past, at some point several years ago.”

Are you sure you did?

Steve Mays June 3, 2011 at 7:34 am

This post, this insight and understanding is such a gift. Thank you. I no longer have to struggle with how to express this. I can just send them a link.

Lisis June 3, 2011 at 7:47 am

I spend a good bit of time rooting myself in the present moment, which I find both liberating (in that all regrets about the past and worries about the future melt away,) and a bit sad (that my entire life with my parents, and my years of flying, and all the fun and crazy stuff I used to do may as well not have ever “existed”). For better or worse, this moment is all I have… might as well focus on the “better”. :)

meg June 3, 2011 at 9:10 am

Or could it be a rapid series of still points? Could the range of experiences that, say, resulted in the very particular way you can/cannot see, hear/cannot hear, move/cannot move, color the reality of what you’re dropped into?

What I mean, is, the ability to perceive depth and richness of existence increases with depth of experience. Unfortunately, a lot of older folks don’t take advantage of this and waste a lot of Now with moaning about the Past and the Future. Tiresome gits.

I love this line: “eternally pulling you out of the actual prose and into some analysis about it.” Delicious writing, delicious thinking–bravo, David!

Lindsay June 3, 2011 at 9:58 am

This is fantastic. I don’t like Ekchart Tolle, but this reminds me of the “Power of Now” (in a way) because it reminds us that the only important moment is the present.

I’m a spiritual person and I think we’ve incarnated in the physical for experience. Experiences that range from a simple touch to deep, unconditional love (yes, I do believe in unconditional love!).

Yelena (Colorful Childhood) June 3, 2011 at 1:34 pm

This is a great post. I recently came across your blog and it is amazing! For years I have been search for a way to find peace, joy, and happiness. I know it is internal and not really influenced by our circumstances. The only thing that worked for me so far is really BEING IN THE PRESENT MOMENT – listening, touching, smelling, feeling :)

Jonathan June 3, 2011 at 1:57 pm

I totally agree that what we perceive as the past and the future are merely our thoughts in this very moment. I sometimes wonder if you can even really trust your memory about what happened in your past.

It seems that whenever you ask another person who was there at that moment this person has a whole different memory than yours altogether, at least when details are concerned. Maybe we simply construct a big part of our lifes as our brain seems fit? Maybe many things we have in our memory didn’t really happen after all?

Whenever I imagine talking to someone in my head it seems so vivid and realistic. I could guess that sometimes we remember these inner discussions as if they really happened.

I know the feeling that you have been somewhere else in the last moment, too. It’s like you became aware for the glimpse of an eye that you are not your body or your thoughts but in fact the thing that gazes through your eyes, listens with your ears and experiences whatever you smell, taste or touch without ever really doing anything itself.

An effective way for me to reach this state is to imagine that everything I experience is a really realistic video game. That shifts my awareness away from being totally absorbed in what’s happening to the bigger picture, so to say.

David June 3, 2011 at 7:32 pm

Ha.. I remember my parents disagreeing over the details of a story when one of them was talking about something that happened years ago, which means that at least one of them is convinced of a past that is untrue. I know whenever I see a movie I hadn’t seen for a long time, for example, it’s never quite like I remember it. There are details in my memory that don’t match the real thing.

I know what you mean with the video game perspective shift. It helps you to stay present and curious. When we slip into abstract thinking about the big picture, we can’t really watch what’s happening without evaluating it against our fears and desires for the future.

Célia (@peace) June 3, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Very interesting post… I have a vivid memory of experiencing something similar when I was about 14. It was New Year’s day I think, at my great-grand-mother’s house; I woke up not knowing where I was but really enjoying the sound of birds chirping outside, the comfort of the bedding, the sunlight bathing the room, then I heard my mum’s voice and though it did sound familiar straight away it took me a few second to clock that it was my mum’s. And a few seconds more to remember where I was, who I was, what day it was… Thinking about it it’s something that can easily happen when you wake up. We’ve all experienced that feeling of not knowing where we are or thinking we are somewhere else just before we open our eyes after a deep sleep.
I’d love to get better at re-creating that feeling at will. Must practise. It’s such a great experience to detach yourself from your thoughts and immerse yourself in the present moment, with all your senses. I must get better at letting go of the past too…
Thanks David, you’ve inspired me, once again!

David June 3, 2011 at 7:34 pm

Thanks Célia. The past and future really do seem concrete most of the time, but sometimes we do get a random glimpse of how it doesn’t really work like we imagine.

Ryan June 3, 2011 at 3:02 pm

To the Author:

I was fortunate enough to come along your blog sometime ago, and I believe I owe you a thank you. From time to time, often when it is most needed, you provide insight that I can apply to my own life. Thank you for helping me move one step toward being the actualized person I desire to be.

Have an awesome weekend,


Amos Oliver Doyle June 3, 2011 at 3:54 pm

David, I want to sincerely thank you for your thoughts. I hope you can get them into a book someday. Great Site!

nrhatch June 3, 2011 at 4:34 pm

When I turn my attention to the present moment, the past and future fall by the wayside and . . . I smile.

We are NOT the thoughts we think.

Great post, David.

Hans June 3, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Thanks, great post! It made me think of Lao Tsu’s aphorism: “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.”

David June 3, 2011 at 7:35 pm

That’s fantastic. I’m going to put that on my fridge.

Lonnie June 3, 2011 at 9:55 pm

Very refeshing, thank you, David.

Tenar June 4, 2011 at 12:59 am

I had this same experience when I was two years old. I just “woke up” in my body, so to speak. I could not recall any of the moments before that moment, even though I tried. I knew the story of who I was, who my parents were, but only as knowledge, not as experience. I was simply “born” in that moment and I was very aware of this fact, even at two. I understood then that this was a significant experience and I still remember it so clearly – the quality of the sunlight, the feel of the air, the way everything looked so, so beautiful even though we lived in an old, crappy apartment in western Sydney. I haven’t experienced it again, but then, I’ve never considered before reading this that it might be possible to experience it at will.

Shanna Mann June 4, 2011 at 10:18 am

Here’s a funny story. As I was reading your article, I was fuzzy-headed, and I remember thinking, “This is profound. Pay attention to what he’s saying.”

So I went into my body, shut the laptop and fell into a deep sleep for over two hours. Mid morning, no less!

That, my friend, is a profound reaction. Thank you for the insight.

Henway June 4, 2011 at 12:30 pm

Great insights here… I’ve tried being more present at times in my life, and some times my mind just doesn’t let me do that. It always treats the present as a means to some end in the future, which ain’t good… but it’s how I’m wired I guess… I’ll start living in the present once I find a beautiful, sweet wife, made my millions and am doing the job I want in my life… and Oh, I need to have my own home too.. then yeah, maybe I’ll start living in the present… wait.. I might also need…

Peter June 4, 2011 at 2:32 pm

I experienced a crisis about 18 months ago in which I questioned and tore to pieces all I knew about myself. It was liberating in the extreme, in that I strived to constitute a new self in which I aimed to be the best person I could, making the most of each moment and being selfless. The trouble was that this indiscriminate taking apart of the self meant I lost in me that I hadn’t previously valued, and ended up exhausting myself from the exertion I was demanding. It also meant I had but a loose association with the past. So over time I’ve found myself again, but since doing that I’ve tried at least to retain the sense that, this is it, this is life, and it’s be to enjoyed. Yeah.

Em June 4, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Think I’ll drop in on my life and see what’s going on! :)
I’m having a hard time understanding one cannot know whether the past was real or imagined?! but I do expect unicorns are out there somewhere!

Dan-yel June 4, 2011 at 4:36 pm

I’ve been following your blog for some time, and this will be my first time commenting on your post, and that’s because this is your best and most insightful, not to mention useful, article. Having studied existentialism and Buddhist philosophy to a certain extent helps to understand most of what you said here in this blog, and I must say how your articles further my understanding about these philosophies’ approach to life and our existence.

Personally, my dad passed away last year, and it impact me in a very significant way. My dad is very responsible, and he made a lot of sacrifices for our family, and for that I am heavily indebted to him. But he was not always happy too. He laboured under and had to tolerate his boss who, not only unappreciative of his work, but treat him with lack of respect. As a result he harboured a lot of anger, and that sometimes affect our family. Other than that, he always live the future, as in he always expect that the time he will really enjoy life is when he retires and when his kids start working, but he died before that happens. He wanted to do many things, but in conclusion he never really seize every moment and enjoy life as it is, but expect so much about how life should turn out for him.

I have always lead my life in a way to avoid my dad’s failures and regrets, while at the same time staying true to his values i.e. the never give up attitude and his dedication and sense of responsibility. I had always wanted to show to him that I am his embodiment of the kind of success if he had the opportunity and knowledge to achieve. But after his death, I realise there’s a bigger lesson for me, that I should not be so preoccupied with the future or the past, and focus on living the moment, regardless of what I mean in the context of my past.

Thank you, for sharing your thoughts on life and our existence. You have no idea the magnitude of your impact on others’ life.

J.A.Clark June 4, 2011 at 5:24 pm

Terry Pratchett commented on this. I think it was probably in Small Gods, but it might have been another…There was a monk who’s name escapes me (fictional anyway so what’s it matter?) but his title was “The Eternally Curious” or something like that. He evaluated every single moment as a new one. He lived a life of constant surprise and joy at the abundance of sensations.

That’s an idea that struck me as significant.

While don’t dwell on it I feel like it has greatly informed my sense of self, and my personal philosophies, so to that end maybe you should read some Terry Pratchett. I some times refer to the feeling you described at your family dinner as a “Caveman Moment.” I have them unexpectedly when interfacing with technology. Just brief moments of absolute wonder. This tiny box is glowing, and portraying all sorts of information. I’m tapping small squares in a sequence squiggly symbols appear on the glowing face of the thin plate-like box. Like a wall-mounted TV can at times just feel astonishing.

The idea that a car even works by harnessing the power of explosions in rhythm is absurd.

It’s a hard frame of mind to maintain at all times, but it’s a valuable feeling to tap in to. To objectively view the world, if briefly, is a great thing. So thank you for bringing it to people’s attention.

zach June 4, 2011 at 8:43 pm

Your articles are always exactly what I need to hear.

Thank you for writing.

I’m going to take a walk.

Kylie June 5, 2011 at 5:18 pm

A couple of years ago I had a kind of similar experience of ego disidentification, it was right after I had meditated and I suddenly had this sense of being a step back from myself and my life. I felt really tender towards myself and incredibly grateful for the experience of existing; life seemed less serious and scary, and more playful. I have not forgotten the feeling, but I can easily get all tangled up in my usual way of experiencing the world and go for ages without remembering. Thank you for an excellent post which I think adds another dimension to this.

Renée MBM June 6, 2011 at 3:09 am

Very similar stuff to what I was taught on 10-day Vipassana retreats.

“Your experience is entirely here. The present contains the past and future, not the inside-out way we’re used to thinking about it.”

Absolutely. Thanks for the reminder. :)

Javonne June 6, 2011 at 11:15 am

I read this book recently about an Amazonian tribe called Don’t Sleep There Are Snakes. This linguist and missionary named Daniel Everett moved his family to live with the Piraha people in hopes of converting them to Christianity, but what he found was that these people had virtually no concept of the past or future, and almost no ability in their language to converse about the past or future. The tribe had never asked the questions, ‘Where do we come from? Where will we go?’ They understood that they just couldn’t know, so they didn’t bother with the notions. They have no creation myth and don’t tell any stories that don’t have a living eye-witness. So incredible! These people truly live moment to moment and couldn’t imagine it any other way. Everett realized that this is a very advanced way of thinking, not a more primitive mindset than our obsession with the past and future.
Daniel Everett ended up giving up his religion after spending so many years with these interesting people. I suggest this book to anyone.

David June 18, 2011 at 4:02 pm

That sounds like a fantastic book. Definitely on the list.

George June 7, 2011 at 11:46 am

Great post.

It reminded me a little of Morita Therapy (or rather David K Reynold’s ‘Constructive Living’ version of it), which I’d read about ages ago but forgotten about until now. In that approach, rather than trying to ‘fix’ yourself, you instead concern yourself only with what is appearing in the moment, and “what needs doing now”.

“Ultimately, the successful student of Morita therapy learns to accept the internal fluctuations of thoughts and feelings and ground his behavior in reality and the purpose of the moment. ”



“Involve yourself in life. Notice, have purpose, act. Your life isn’t nearly as complicated as you THINK. Simply live it, moment by moment.”


(That page is definitely worth a read.)

Lori June 8, 2011 at 4:16 pm

wow! that was great. It would be fun to have coffee with you!

Matt June 11, 2011 at 2:25 pm

I find if you simply stop for a moment and just say to yourself over and over “I am a person” it conjures up a really odd sensation. A sensation of your existence in the present moment. An experience free of every other distraction and thought other than the sensation of self in the present. By repeating this it distances you from your body and thoughts as you describe in this piece.

Try it, just repeat to yourself that you are a person, concentrating on this point and you may get a sensation as described in this blog.

Just my little input on how one may experience this. Curiously, I find my mind wondering away from this time after time. Perhaps because to be fully aware of your existence in that moment also goes hand in hand with aware of death and the comfort that my day to day living out of habit offers escapism from that. It’s an unwanted occurrence, one I strive to break out of but one that keeps returning. I say this with trepidation because hope is often a terrible thing but…hopefully one day it won’t.

Yelena (Colorful Childhood) June 12, 2011 at 11:38 pm

Our memory is not what really happened, but is only our perception of what happened. The memory of the event is often affected and tweeked after the event when we get perception of what exactly happened from other people. Little kids often “form” their memories from pictures or their parents stories, but they will assure you that they “remember”.

Andrew Johnson July 1, 2011 at 7:07 am

Wow… great post. I agree wholeheartedly with everything you said. The big challenge is experiencing that way of life on an on-going basis. As humans we tend to get drawn back into the past/future dilemma, unfortunately. But, practice makes perfect (or at least better). :-)

Louise July 20, 2011 at 5:08 pm

This is a great website, so glad I stumbled upon it. This article in particular really rang true. I had an experience at the age of about 15 where I suddenly seemed to ‘view’ myself from the outside. It was as if I was above, looking down at myself. It made me view life differently. That moment lasted mere seconds, but when I ‘returned’ to myself I looked at myself and everything around me in another way, similarly to how you describe. It was like starting afresh. Thanks for reminding me of it.

Jane July 28, 2011 at 10:33 pm

I know this was written a while ago but I’m reading it for the first time. It’s timely as things so often are for me. have been letting go of the idea of certainty – the idea I know what the future will bring, that I can predict an outcome and influence others. It’s been a rewarding and horrible and uncomfortable journey to get from my absolute black and white reality to this place of ‘just is’.

Robert Lach May 29, 2012 at 12:02 am

Thank you very much ! :-)

There are reasons, why our collective mind is awakening.

My case is, that I have been a 6-figure corporate rat just a few years ago. A very good friend of mine, Jacek Studencki, have died out of the sudden due to his cancer disease (July 2010), and the company he have managed (CEO and Presient of the Ex. Board) – have just collapsed. more than 250 families were send into “the street level” including mine.

Electrocardiogram of my incomes have started to show flat line, with nervous sound of ZERO incomes and with the fixed high constant costs. Our life have been thrown upside down, which in turn have been a blessing for starting a new life for me and my family.
Your post its so tasty and important to me, that I can not write more now. I will come back often to this place and to this awsome community.

Have a nice day for all and most of all to you David !

Alex May 1, 2013 at 7:07 pm

I just have to say thank you for this article. I have read a lot of stuff like Eckhart Tolle, Bryon Katie and Buddhism but this feeling of being in the present moment and not being my thoughts never really “hit” me until reading this article today.

I will have to ponder this some more. It sure has done a lot to shift my perspective.

Galina May 7, 2013 at 11:11 am

David, hats off to your genious once again!
To those who like this post, watch the TED talk of Daniel Kahneman: The riddle of experience vs. memory. It has similar ideas.

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