Ask Golden Willow

Staying in the present moment: difficult but worthwhile

By Ted Wiard
For The Taos News
Posted 1/18/19

Dear Dr. Ted: I have had many losses in my life and appreciate an article that explores emotional healing and how to try to navigate the journey of consciousness and hope during and after loss.

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Ask Golden Willow

Staying in the present moment: difficult but worthwhile

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Dear Dr. Ted: I have had many losses in my life and appreciate an article that explores emotional healing and how to try to navigate the journey of consciousness and hope during and after loss. I am in recovery due to addiction and have worked hard to build a life that has peace and growth. Sobriety has helped so many parts of my life, but it does not mean I can just let go of stressors of the future or get caught in resentments from the past. How do you stay in the present moment with the past having had such an impact on the future Thanks, Tito

Dear Tito: Great work on your recovery – it is an enormous start toward having a solid emotional foundation in a world that has so many difficulties, and there is no need to add extra issues that will undermine the best intentions. Staying in the present moment is an important aspect of recovery and emotional sobriety. I wish I could say that I have mastered the skill of being in the present moment, but it is an ongoing struggle where I get to celebrate the times that I am truly in the present moment.

Being present is a discipline that takes work and is not something you can just do easily. Our brain scans information from the past in order to prepare for the future. This is a natural process of mental self-preservation. The problem with this survival skill is that it is easy to be caught in the past while being overwhelmed with the future. This state leaves little room for the present, which is all you have in your decision-making. The goal is gleaning information from the past and using that data to help take your next step while manifesting the future, one step and one decision at a time.

Your brain is naturally going to look into the future, which can be healthy as a way to help set goals and prepare your path. The difficult part is then to come back to the present, and not hold onto whatever predictions you have for your future. There is a saying that goes, “You can look back, just don’t stare.” I think we could say the same with looking toward the future, “You can look forward, but don’t get captured,” as the future is not here yet. Future catastrophizing and past ruminating hijack the present, which makes our brain feel out of control and not safe.

The serenity prayer asks to be granted the serenity to accept the things you cannot change, the courage to change the things you can and the wisdom to know the difference. The difficult part of this is the wisdom to know the difference, but in practicing being present, the brain will get stronger and stronger in not getting caught in past or present. Realizing your mind will naturally have a tendency of getting caught in the past will allow you to be gentle and kind with yourself when you need to return to the present time and place. Next week we will look at internal and external resourcing to help support this difficult task of being present.

Thank you for the question. I wish you well. Until next week, take care.

Golden Willow Retreat is a nonprofit organization focused on emotional healing and recovery from any type of loss. Direct any questions to Dr. Ted Wiard, EdD, LPCC, CGC, Founder of Golden Willow Retreat at GWR@newmex.com.

The Taos News has committed to implement a weekly column to help educate our community about emotional healing through grief. People may write questions to Golden Willow Retreat and they will be answered privately to you and possibly as a future article for others. Please list a first name that grants permission for printing.

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