The online Certificate in Humanistic Counselling includes an exercise asking students to reflect on how much they experience an event at the moment it happens.
How much do we shrug off a compliment, and never really fully experience that feel-good factor? How much do we block out anger and conflict, and find ourselves going over it again and again afterwards?
I was thinking about my own responses in an email conversation with a good friend recently, having encouraged her to “enjoy the moment”. Back came the response, “what if the present moment is awful”?
My first response was to acknowledge that the present moment will pass.
Using distraction to survive removes the focus of being in the moment. So it has to be about both acknowledging the real awfulness of the moment, and also holding the knowledge that it will pass.
My next response was about finding something good in the present moment however awful the situation.
Engaging with escapism gets us through the moment, but again it has to be about both acknowledging the awfulness, and finding a way to bring some positive learning from it.
Holding both aspects in balance is not an easy option. Engaging with the present moment is far from an easy option.
It takes openness and a good sense of self worth to accept a compliment and engage with the good feelings that generates within us. It takes strength and courage to engage with anger, conflict, hate, bitterness and not be consumed by it.
In defending ourselves against the experience of the moment we miss out on the full experience of it.
There are moments we can enjoy. Other moments we may endure. But engaging with and fully experiencing the moment will bring the most positive results physically, emotionally and spiritually.
I’m currently reading a book based on the diary of a young Jewish woman in Nazi Germany. The diary documents her search for self, and that balance of engaging and experiencing the present moment amidst the awful trauma of that moment in time for her.
Whether it’s a personal moment or a shared national or global moment, and whether we enjoy, endure, engage or escape, the experience of the present moment can be both beautifully powerful and powerfully painful. How we deal with those moments is important for our physical, mental and emotional health. And our sense of self in the world around us.
And there are many powerful and painful moments in the world right now.