The Art of Being Where You Are
Peace is the Project (Part III)
Welcome back to our series Peace is the Project, exploring how one finds tranquility in daily life. Thus far, we’ve discussed On Learning to Relax and The Meaning of Anxiety. Today we turn to the perennial challenge of being where you are. Specifically, how we should think about training the mind, our relationship with time, and the art of attention.
“If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”
— Lao Tzu
Peace is in the present moment. But to be in the present, as the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu highlighted, one must learn to let go of the past and manage their anxiety about the future. Cultivating these skills begins with training the mind. The Buddha declared, “I do not see even one other thing that, when untamed, unguarded, unprotected, and unrestrained, leads to such great harm as the mind.” However, the wisdom of being present is not unique to Eastern philosophy.
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Training the Mind
In his Meditations, the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius recommends that we strengthen our attachment to the present moment. “Every hour of the day,” he writes, “give vigorous attention . . . to the performance of the task in hand with precise analysis, with unaffected dignity, with human sympathy, with dispassionate justice—and to vacating your mind from all its other thoughts.”
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