I am therefore I am: a conundrum

WARNING: This post contains armchair philosophy and thoughts and ideas that might make your head explode or something.

Here’s a question for you: if you spend fifty percent of you time thinking that yesterday was better, and the other fifty percent thinking that tomorrow will be better – what does that make today? I think that’s my way of trying to understand time and existence. I’ve a feeling I’m biting off more than I can chew here, but I’m going to give it a go….

If you’ve ever had any kind of counselling or therapy ‘mindfulness’ will be a familiar concept to you. It seems that if you want to be normal rather than mental you have to keep your thoughts in the here and now: no past, no future, just the moment you’re in.

Mindfulness is something I struggle with in part because it’s only a few steps shy of meditation and meditation makes me giggle because it’s not the kind of thing I can take seriously. At all. Ever. The end.

Maybe I’m just too cynical for all this mindfulness stuff?

I’m also not entirely convinced that human beings can ever ‘exist’ in one moment alone. I understand the arguments, but I wonder whether we’re really wired that way. Everything that I am now is surely a culmination of everywhere I’ve ever been? Everything that I do now is surely a small contribution to who I’m going to be in the future. If all there is is now then who was I, and who will I be? Those things are important, no?

I suppose it comes down to what ‘existing’ is and whether you believe (is it a belief, I don’t know?) that the verb exist has a legitimate past and future tense. Existing isn’t just being alive. I’m sure about that because, for example, I’m sitting on a chair at the moment and the chair definitely exists and is definitely not alive* Some things ‘existed’ thousands of years ago but people argue that they only exist now in this moment. You are reading this in a different moment from the one I wrote it in. When does it exist?

I exist now and I’m fairly confident of that. And I know I existed yesterday because I can REMEMBER yesterday. That’s quite straightforward in a way, but tomorrow only ‘exists’ in so far as I can imagine it. Does that mean it exists or not…. I’ve never been to Madagascar but I know it exists, or does it – maybe it only exists in this moment if you are actually there? Do bears shit in the woods?

……. Dear oh dear. Is your head hurting yet?

I think I’ll have a nice musical interlude at this point to get my hurting head off the hook….. Here’s a (very) handsome man with a gruff and gravelly voice singing about tomorrow. It’s nice. It’ll make your head all better:

I got lost in existence for a while there. Sorry. But I think you have probably got the gist of the difficulty that I have with mindfulness?

The past matters to human beings. It forms a large part of our collective identity, and, I think of our individual identities too. The past is important and I don’t think you should wipe it away and I don’t think you really can – no matter how you train your brain. That’s why we have Armistice Day (as an example) because what people did in the past matters a great deal to who people are today, and for that matter, how they live today.

As for the future, I can’t imagine what humans would be without it. Would we ever have done anything? What happens to progress if there is no future? What happens to hope?

Living in the moment is all very well. But what if the moment you are in is terrible? I don’t really mean broken brain terrible (although that is quite terrible enough) but what if, for arguments sake you are being held in a Syrian jail and tortured within an inch of your life IN THIS MOMENT? I can’t see how you find happiness in that moment under those circumstances…..

I’m over thinking it aren’t I?

Here are my final thoughts on mindfulness…..

Google ‘mindfulness’ or ‘living in the moment’ or whatever variation on the theme you can think of and you’ll find people who have found ‘happiness’ by simply ‘living in the moment’. I think that’s fantastic for them, I really do, but what they never say is HOW they do it. Do they just wake up one morning and find themselves in the moment? If the only problem that I have is that I can’t live in the here and now, why can’t someone just give me a step by step guide to living in the here and now?

I don’t get it.

Finally – in my mind there is a very practical problem with ‘living in the moment’. Okay, so here I am today. I’m typing up a blog post and watching Olympic Volleyball. That’s all that matters because that’s now. It’s all I should be thinking about.

But here’s the thing. There isn’t a lot of food in my flat and one of my friends has a birthday coming up. That means I need to think about buying groceries and gifts and I will do both of those things in the future but I will plan for them now. If I stuck with the moment I’d just head out into the world to forage for food when I was hungry and I’d never get a gift to anyone in time. Sometimes you have to plan but if you ever say that to someone who is trying to teach you mindfulness they will say  ‘ah, but that’s different – it’s a different kind of thinking, a different thought process’.

To me, that says that mindfulness is an intuitive thing and I end up back at wondering where my step by step guide to mindfulness is because I quite clearly don’t get it. As usual.

What a long post to say nothing more than ‘I’m confused and I don’t get it’!!

Lots of love from a philosophical WeeGee xx

*Unless I have well and truly taken leave of my senses once and for all!

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18 comments

  1. I also struggle with mindfulness. I am hopeless at most types of meditation too. I went to a conference where the speakers did some workshops and tried out different types of meditation. Some I could engage in more easily than others. I think I might be trying too hard, I know I will never been good at Loving Kindness Meditation. Just because it works for others doesn’t mean you need to force yourself to have it work for you!

  2. Amazing post, amazing thoughts – you totally put out what I’m Thinking in terms if mindfulness. For some reason I have a huge fear of it – same w meditation – I get you there!
    Existence – wow. I totally think we are based 50% genetics and 50% experiences – so I do think they culminate and definately add to our existence and journey, but I think in the now or in the moment, our actions can change our path…
    Thx for the post!

    1. You’re welcome! I think we’re a little bit genetics, a little bit experience and a little bit something else. I haven’t decided what the something else is! xx

  3. I only read half of this because thinking about the future gives me the wobbles and thinking about the past also gives me the wobbles. The now is not wobbley, but what I never get in mindfullness therapy, if the now is wobbley do you look at the past, present or future? xox

    1. That’s a good point actually because the answer to now being wobbley is always the past or future but what if it’s just now….. I’m rubbish at mindfullness 😛 xx

  4. It is certainly true that the now moment is the only one in which you can ever do anything at all – you have to live in the moment for that. So if memories of the past or fears of the future are stopping you using the now, then yes, focusing on this moment which is all we actively have is a good idea. But of course using the now moment might include resolving the past or aligning one’s future ready to step into it.

    How does that fit with mindfulness, which I have managed to avoid as a fad?

    I don’t know if this makes sense because I am thinking about spiders in my hair (literally, as I have been pruning a tree taller than I am).

    1. Oh The Potter! You are so wise! That’s it isn’t it? If the past and future stops you now it’s a problem, otherwise it’s useful. Why didn’t I get to that with my thinking – maybe I should have thought a little bit harder 🙂

      xx

      PS I’m not at all scared of spiders but i’ll tell you what I wouldn’t like to have them in my hair. Good luck with that!

      1. Not a word usually attached to me, but thank you – and if so, just a product of old age, I’m afraid.

        I had to wash the hair, I couldn’t convince myself there weren’t creepies in it otherwise!

  5. Ah, it has a name and it’s “mindfulness”. I have to say I feel the same as you. If you only live in the moment, what of consequence and planning? I don’t get it either.

    1. I’m glad it’s not just me – consequences and planning surely can’t be denied? Maybe my ‘answer’ will come when I learn how to put lots of different moments together whilst also keeping them apart. If you see what I mean?

      xx

  6. Me a d mindfulness have a love/hate relationship. Sometimes I automatically fall into that state of mind and it’s wonderful but the rest of the time I’m thinking how pants it is cause u can’t love your life thru mindfulness – how do you improve yourself if you just accept accept accept??
    I love your little WeeGee style by the way. The starred bits, the musical interludes… Everytime I think of footnotes (which isn’t very often I know) I think of you :p
    Xxx

    1. Haha! It made me laff that I put you in mind of footnotes…. story of my life (I joke BTW)

      I think I have the same thing. Why accept everything. I like to challenge and I like to think. Why is thinking bad? :-/

      xx

      1. Thinking isn’t bad. Have you ever read the book the highly sensitive person? People think highly sensitive traits are bad or thinking is bad. In reality it has it’s own positives that no one thinks about. In this case I think thinking allows us to have deep connections on here. Sorry I’ve taken night nurse so this may be a bit waffley :p x

  7. Could you say more about your dislike of meditation? There are a lot of types of meditating so I just wanted some clarification. And I have kind of a “non-answer” to your problem: practice. Mindfulness takes practice, and it really is about living, not just thinking, in the present. I don’t know if that clarifies anything for you though. -Sparrow

    1. It sounds daft but I just can’t take that kind of thing seriously. I’m too aware of myself I think. I kind of get the point of ‘mindfulness’, I just don’t understand how to to it.

      xx

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