Nothing is real but this very moment


Meghan Kennedy

A picture from this past summer during a moment where I truly felt present.

Every day, I wake up, eat breakfast, get ready, go to school, come back home, do my work, eat dinner, then go back to bed—the only exception from my weekly ritual is the weekend, a two-day-long stint to actually do something fun or relatively relaxing.

But as this cycle continually turns time after time, everything feels like it’s starting to blend together, making it nearly impossible to decipher what time I am truly living in.

This same feeling overtakes numerous individuals who are also chained to their routines. As a society, we have grown accustomed to working tirelessly during the week to specifically reach the freedom of the weekend, only for it to end before it has seemingly even started. All of this, once again, feeds into the perpetual cycle we call “life.”

Recently, I have started to observe how quickly my weeks are sketched out on Mondays and how, hastily, they are erased every Sunday. Why is this pattern so vicious? How does it move so unbelievably fast? Why does it feel like I reside within some liminal space between consciousness and subconsciousness during the rapid-firing weeks? All of these questions pointed to one answer—the state of not being present.

As cliche as the terms “living in the moment” or “being present” might seem, they are far too relevant to be overlooked. The reason why life feels like it’s moving at light speed is solely due to the fact that the present moment is not being experienced. Our thoughts are usually placed on what is to come, the next deadline, or the next opportunity to relax and linger on miscellaneous moments that have already occurred. This leaves absolutely no room to focus on what is happening right as time unfolds before us.

I have a major problem of worrying about the future or picking apart my past, but I have found a few techniques that help ground me in the present. A thought that I found that has immensely helped reduce my stress and has allowed me to be present is understanding that this exact moment happening right now is the only thing that exists. The past has already happened, and everything that has occurred is just a memory; therefore, it is not real. The future is just a semblance of an assumption, a guess, a way to provoke fear about things that have not even happened—it is all just a thought; therefore, it is not real.

It takes time to wrap the mind around this concept, but just think about it in simple terms; now is the only time to actually live and experience the surrounding world. Whether that moment is laying in bed, walking through town, or talking with a friend, life is only able to be truly absorbed through that exact moment. After all, we don’t pass through time—time passes through us.

Once again, harnessing that mindset takes effort, but a way to expedite the process is simply noticing what the surrounding environment entails. If I ever find myself hyper-fixated on my guilt or am dreading possible outcomes, I like to observe where I am and focus on the five senses. 

First, I find five things or objects around me that I can see; for example, right now I can see my closet doors, my shelf, my computer screen, my salt lamp, and one of my paintings. Next, I notice four things I can hear; right now, I hear my fan whirring, my typing keys, my music playing, and my breath. Next, I notice three tangible things I can feel; right now, I feel my sweatshirt, my hair touching my face, and a blanket. Then, I observe two things I can smell; right now, I smell my lavender candle and fresh air seeping through my window. Lastly, I find one thing I can taste; right now, I can taste my pomegranate chapstick. 

After all, we don’t pass through time—time passes through us.

This method might seem insignificant, but in reality, living in the moment can mean taking a second to just simply be. It helps to ground us in any position and has the power to subside extraneous thoughts, allowing the mind to relax into a state of awareness. Realize that worrisome thoughts are what take us away from being present, and just try to connect with what life offers in that very moment. 

Though life’s patterns and cycles might stay put, a mindset can always—at any time—change. Look at life as a series of moments that unfold before us; the good moments, the bad moments, and the neutral moments are all just details that make up the DNA of daily life. Just think of these moments as the pages in the numerous chapters of our lives. 

Instead of viewing the week ahead as a steep hill to climb just to reach the weekend’s summit, go in with the mindset of each day being a new time to absorb every conversation, every bite of food, every word written, every tear, every laugh, and every moment in between—simply let each day be a vessel to experience every flowering moment.

To reiterate, the present is the absolute only thing that exists to actually live in—we continually travel through the present as it is what carries us through absolutely every second of our lives. Although we are all physically in the present, most of us are not there mentally. Directing attention to what is happening now takes the weight off of our expectations and ourselves in general. 

I still have a long way to go in terms of living in the moment, but for now, being content with where I am is a start. Although it can feel like each day is recycled, finding nuances between each passing moment can differentiate seemingly cloned days, furthering the fact that the present moment is always going to offer something beautifully different. 

Just take life one step at a time; no moment is going to exactly replicate itself ever again, so try to be grateful for the one-of-a-kind details that are offered in the state of being present.