Growth

Is being mindful of the present moment overrated?

As I drove to work the other day, I dreamed of my future.

I should have been paying closer attention to the road. When I got to work I realized I couldn’t remember anything about the drive. Oops!

60 mph

Canon FT QL, 50mm f/1.8 Canon FL, Fujicolor 200, 2013

I have always been a guy who ruminates about the past and frets over the future. It sometimes takes over my mind, robbing me of joy and peace. So I’ve learned some techniques around focusing on my breathing and letting thoughts and feelings pass through my mind without dwelling on them. It’s basic mindfulness. Maybe you do this, too; it’s become pretty popular in the last 20 years or so.

My favorite time to practice mindfulness is when I have a camera in my hands. I do break the rule about not judging thoughts and feelings, as I need that judgment to compose a pleasing photo. But everything else about photography is quiet and meditative for me.

This practice really helps me keep calm and not make mountains out of molehills. The benefits of mindfulness are clear for all. It can reduce anxiety and depression. It can help manage anger. It can even help people recover from addiction.

But a backlash appears to have started against mindfulness. Some now claim practicing mindfulness reduces our ability to properly judge reality, can create false memories and blunt our ability to latch onto positive thoughts, and for people with trauma histories it can even bring back painful memories and spur panic attacks.

I don’t think I’ve experienced any of this harm. I’ve certainly not panicked while practicing!

But aren’t there some useful things to do with this present moment that might not involve being present in this moment? Such as dreaming about the future? Planning for good things to come? Looking forward to what might be? I’ve surely been doing a lot of that as I anticipate my future with my new wife. We are, after all, getting married tomorrow!

Dreaming is a fine thing to do in this present moment. Just not while you’re driving.

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10 thoughts on “Is being mindful of the present moment overrated?

  1. hmunro says:

    We seem to be on a parallel path with this mindfulness thing, Jim! For my part, I’ve concluded that ruminating about the past or anticipating future events is a problem only if it causes me anxiety — either by evoking negative feelings, or by robbing me of too much time. And in your case it seems completely understandable that you’d get so lost in thought about your wedding that you’d “forget” how to got to work. I’m just glad you got there safely!

    My very best wishes to you and your bride for a lovely ceremony tomorrow, and for a long lifetime of good health and happiness together.

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  2. Adam J. Coffman says:

    Congratulations, Jim. I think I practice “mindfulness” every day while having my morning poo… I just didn’t know what to call it until now 😃.

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  3. I do have to say that there really is nothing else to be mindful of other than the present moment. Even if I am thinking about the past I am doing that in the present. And I think that is what is really meant by mindfulness. That is to be aware of what we are thinking and feeling at the present moment and that doesn’t mean to never think about the past or the future.

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