finding peace in the present moment

The Irreconcilably Irritating Present And How to Find Peace in It

In the span of the last 31 minutes, the idea behind the title of the post came into astounding clarity. Here’s what that past series of events looked like.

An Irritating Present

I was writing a poem in a perfect present moment an hour ago. As I was musing about being irritated at this beautiful and happy day, I was trying to get a handle on the irritation I could feel burbling beneath my skin. I was waiting on a friend in a sunny table at a local Whole Foods Market. And something about my revving engine, my joy and energy, was irritated, even though things were all perfect. He wasn’t late. Traffic was light and I got a front-row parking spot. And to top it all off, I was writing poetry. How zen and wonderful. And irritating.

Okay (so I’m going to get to the irritating part in a moment) here’s how the rest of my time went.

  • I had a pleasant conversation with my friend
  • He got up after 30-minutes to leave (“I guess, no walk, then?” I didn’t ask.)
  • I strolled easily through the grocery store, purchasing organic taco shells, some fancy hormone-free beef, and some mild taco seasoning and dropped into a short check-out line.
  • The “irreconcilably” part of my idea came into focus as I was driving home
  • As I tried to head to the bedroom to write a comedic series of events proceeded to take me as far away from my writing as possible
  • I saw and acknowledged god’s brave joke
  • I breathed in the amazing 74-degree afternoon
  • Walked a visiting kid back to his mom’s house
  • Laughed all the way back to now (the now of 3:31 as I started this post)
  • Wrote up to this very moment and MARK: 3:42.

So What’s Riling Up My Monkey Mind?

If I am honest in this moment, there are plenty of things in my life that are not perfect. There are often plenty of things that I could get upset about. And, still, in this irritation, I have the choice to NOT give into the irritating impulses sucking down my dopamine. I can choose to laugh at the irritation. I can choose to laugh at my belly, my exhaustion, my subcutaneous headache trying to emerge. I can even laugh at my 57-year-old look, that appears more “old man” than “silver fox” to me, each time I look in the mirror.

I am what I am. I am here. And this is another moment in which I can make a choice about how I live it with authenticity and grace. OR, I can tune into the irritation part and be less in-the-moment, because most of my irritations have to do with something that has happened in my past (like my irreconcilable marrage and unfair divorce) or something that is not how I would like it to be.

When we move out of the present moment we are either having regrets, anger, or sadness about our past (unchangeable) or we’re worried about some future outcome that we cannot possibly predict. Let’s take a concrete example of each to hold their energy in an observational meta-mind state. (Writing about your feelings and fears is a great way to “go meta” on your monkey mind.)

Regrets or Anger Can Spoil Your Present Moment

I often have regrets about how my divorce turned out. I wake up often with sadness or anger (depending on my mood) about how little time I get to spend with my kids and the system that gave my ex-wife the trump card in the divorce.

Fear and Envy Can Poison My Contentment

I’d like to be able to work less and write and play more. I’d like to be able to afford more time in a music recording studio working on a rock opera. I’d like to have enough money in the bank to free up myself and my family from the daily grind. And I’m somewhat afraid of the failing health care system and what that means for many of us living within (but just within) our means.

I’ve got my fears. You’ve probably got yours.

The “ninja move” today was allowing some higher power (God, goddess, spiritual force) to take the reigns of the moment. (And actually, no matter what we think is happening, this is always the case in the present moment, forever and ever amen.) And then I was able to push further into my joy at observing the chaos as it unfolded. (Now an hour or more ago.)

The life that unfolded was far from what I imagined as I pointed my nice car homeward and spun up my creative juices to prepare to write this post. Life happened in the gap. The gap was between what I WANTED TO HAPPEN, and WHAT HAPPENED. It was my joy at this gap, my observation of this “in between state” that occurred when I could hold the observer mode of the meta-mind. (Sorry, I know that’s a bit woowoo.)

Slow It Down and Enjoy

I like to drive fast. This is a constant opportunity to tap into the irritating nature of the present moment. As I want to go fast (both in the car and in my life) I am always pushing up against the slower cars of the rapidly growing population of our fair city. (Austin, Texas) I like to drive fast and often I cannot drive fast. Just like today, I wanted to speed home and tap the writing vein and get on with writing this post. And that’s not what happened.

But if I’m able to maintain my meta-mind (observer) attitude and altitude above the present moment events as they occur, I can let go of my expectations and desired outcomes. If I can remain in my writer-mind (“Hey, can you get all this present moment stuff down, right now?”) I can let a bit of the water (events) flow under the bridge without passing GOOD or BAD judgment of the presently-occurring events. Am I high? Are you receiving me?

The Present Moment Mind Is Simpler Than You Think

Slow down.

Enjoy the present moment.

Record the moment in from observer mode (for me this is writing – for you it could be yoga, meditation, tai chi)

Rejoice in the observation of the moment.

Repeat continuously.

Live in the now.


John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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