Hi Vincent! Thank-you for your comments as it helped me realize I had not conveyed my meaning with the clarity I wished and encouraged me to further define my thoughts. I had certainly not meant to convey that being in the here and now is somehow incongruous with being present; or that living in the past or future is healthful or mindful. What I had hoped to convey is that there I believe that there is a false dichotomy in saying that you cannot be present if you are thinking about the past or the future. This is better explained by looking at how acceptance is inextricably tied to non-attachment; and to how the process of thinking is different from the contents of your thoughts.

Being present is about how we think (a process). When we are present, our thinking process is in the here and now in that we actively observe and accept our thoughts. We consciously decide which thoughts we wish to engage with and which thoughts we will decide to allow to flow by, depending upon our intentions. When mindfully engaging with with our thoughts, we see the wisdom in not attaching ourselves to them. We accept that we are not our thoughts (or our conscious mind) but rather we are a whole, expansive Self that is itself also part of a greater, unified consciousness. Mindfulness also sees the wisdom in non-attachment to the things our thoughts represent (whether tangible, like material goods, or intangible, like happiness).

However, one could think about the possibilities of future events (or make projections, whether "wary" or optimistic) and still be present because we are using a 'here and now" thinking process. Let's say you work as part of a think-tank that contemplates many future possibilities for humanity and thinks of how we may respond given those opportunities to best benefit humanity. Right now you are working on the possibility that some of the earth's landmasses may end up underwater due to sea level rise and contemplating what we can do now to better respond should this happen in the future. In being present, you are aware of many thoughts (including wishing you had eaten more for breakfast) but you choose to let most flow by and focus on engaging with your thoughts about what this future possibility could look like and how you may respond. While you are engaging to these thoughts, you do not attach yourself to them and realize they are simply possibilities among infinite possibilities. They may or may not happen. There is no point in worrying about or hoping for any future possibility. As in the quote from the Buddha, you have pointed yourself in the right direction (you wish to reduce harm to humanity) and you are in the "here and now" process of taking one step at a time (whether thinking about the future or making action recommendations) towards this goal. This is in contrast to someone actually living in or for the future (which is not an act of being present) by attaching themselves to worrying thoughts and failing to observe the here and now.

On the flip side, while thinking about the here and now often involves being present, if you use a process of thought whereby you over-attach yourself to one aspect of the "here and now" at the expense of all others, this would not be an act in fully engaging in or accepting life. For example, if you have no money right now and with each moment you think, "I have no money" but do not observe that you have many friends, you are not being fully engaged.

We may not still agree, but I am hoping I have made my meaning more clear. Thank-you again for getting me thinking.

I’m a business trainer specializing in workplace wellness and environmental sustainability. In my spare time I dabble as a mad scientist and street philosopher.

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