Being in the moment or living fully—are they the same?

Be in the moment. A mantra I’ve heard all my life that hangs above my head just beyond my reach.

My little dog Arthur knows how to be in the moment. We’re going on a short trip at the end of this week and will be boarding Arthur for a couple of nights at a local pet “resort.” Arthur hates to go there. He usually stops eating. He is very much a companion dog attached to his two regular companions. But by looking at Arthur today, curled up on his pillow beside my desk, you wouldn’t see one sign of worry about the upcoming disruption in his life. That’s because Arthur doesn’t know we’re going to ditch him at “resort” soon. He is not worried about the future. He is right here in the moment.

It’s easy for a dog to be in the moment.

I know that dwelling on the past can keep us “stuck,” in a place. But sometimes remembering the past brings me a warm, comfortable, and fulfilled feeling. My past contains a lot of happiness. I think it is good to be able to revisit my past at times.

I carry my past within me. My past experiences have been laid down inside my soul, one on top on the other, until the total becomes the character I am today. My past experiences inform how I see and understand the world, for good or bad. I want to be able to look into my past experiences, shine a light into whatever dark corners there may be, and come to some kind of understanding or resolution. I don’t want to run lightly through life soaking up sensations in the moment and never returning. I want to sink my roots deep.

I make no apologies for reviewing my past. Looking at my past, making some kind of sense of it, and then settling it on a shelf is what helps me move forward.

Unlike my dog Arthur, I was given the intellectual ability to think in abstract terms about the future. I do know that Arthur is going to get ditched in a few days. When I think about it from time to time, I feel a little bad in advance. This is unnecessary discomfort that I wouldn’t have to endure if I was truly only in the moment.

On the other hand, sometimes the last thing I want is to be in the particular moment I’m in. Sometimes I would rather be in any other moment. When I had to get a CTScan and was enclosed in the very small claustrophobic space, immobilized, with a loud clanking noise, I was doing everything in my intellectual power to get myself out of the moment and on a beach in the Bahamas.

On the darkest of my days, sometimes the only thing that keeps me going is the thought of a future where the pain wouldn’t be so sharp, where I might laugh again.

I make no apologies for looking to the future.

It is good to be in the moment. I don’t deny it. And when I am in the presence of my little grandson who  I adore, I make every effort to fully soak up all sensations and press them into the memory stores of my mind. Be in the moment.

We were given this great intellectual capability we have of not only experiencing our surroundings, but also of remembering the past and of anticipating a future. More than being in the moment, I think we should be living fully.


20 thoughts on “Being in the moment or living fully—are they the same?”

  1. I agree with you Christine — even if I’m looking to the past or anticipating the future, the important thing is living fully. I struggle with the mantra I often hear to “live in the moment,” but I also want to experience life fully which sometimes means appreciating the whole enchilada of who I am, where I’ve been, and soaking it all up. Nice post! (and so wonderful to read one mid week, too! 🙂

  2. Living fully is living in the moment. However, we must use our past as a base from which we grow. Without those experiences to shape us and lead us, where would we be? It’s all in balance (an priorities or lack of)…we can acknowledge and learn from the past, plan somewhat for the future while living fully in the present. Memories can sustain us through difficult times. I don’t think anyone can actually live in the moment at all times…we’re human and we do drift in and out of the flow, again I think most of us are works in progress.

  3. Christine, thank you so much for putting in eloquent and beautiful words the struggle that I have with living in the moment. I like the concept, but it lacks something at the same time. Denying our past is denying who we are. Of course, I still need to learn to let go of the past to fully move forward. And, while I am trying to be open to all possibilities for the future, to me dreaming is about future possibilities. If I have no dreams, then I have no future. So I will live in the now, learn from the past, and dream of the future knowing that I am living fully. Thank you, thank you, thank you. 🙂

  4. Living in the moment means something different to me ~ it does not require that I wake up with amnesia in the morning or that I ignore the path as it unfolds before me.

    Living in the moment means that I should strive to Be Here Now ~ to pay attention to the sights, smells, sounds, textures, and tastes around me. That I accept the “what is” rather than battling windmills that are out of my control. It encourages me to wash off yesterday’s “junk” rather than hanging on to sour feelings and stale emotions.

    If I want to walk down Memory Lane, I fully embrace that journey ~ using Creative Visualization I am back where I was, hearing the laughter and feeling the love. I am fully absorbed by the memories I have chosen to revisit ~ often while flipping through a photo album.

    If I want to dream of the future, I dream big ~ using Creative Visualization to catapult me from where I am to where I want to be. The more clearly I see where I want to be . . . the easier it is for me to get from HERE to THERE.

    When I’m at the dentist, I mindfully transform the light into the sun and the drill into the roar of the surf . . . rather than lying in the chair worrying about whether it’s going to hurt.

    To me, living in the moment reminds me to consciously and mindfully choose WHICH thoughts to focus on and which to let drift away. It encourages me to open my eyes and SEE what is all around me rather than carting around a wheelbarrow full of yesterday’s woes.

    When we let go of past disappointments and resentments . . . we have two arms open to embrace the gift of this moment ~ allowing us to mindfully choose whether to BE where we are or indulge in a bit of time travel.


    1. The movie/book Peaceful Warrior (based on a real life story) contains a wonderful reminder as Socrates teaches Dan that “there are no ordinary moments.”

      In time, Dan starts to view life with alert curiosity, rather than allowing his thoughts, emotions, and past experiences to dictate his re-actions to new events. As Dan sheds his foolish pride and ego concerns, he uncovers the joy and happiness that await us all when we let go of our automatic responses and begin to live spontaneously in the here and now.

      Where are we? . . . HERE
      What time is it? . . . NOW

      1. I’ve been looking forward to your response all day, Nancy. I knew you’d have something to say. Thanks for the pearls of wisdom.

        It’s really more about letting go of the negatives, not so much separating ourselves from our past, if I’m reading you correctly.

        Thanks for taking the time to give such a thoughtful response. I know the quote from Peaceful Warrior took a minute to find. Thanks for making the effort. It was worth it.

      2. Yes, exactly. It’s about waking up to the realization that our past experiences do NOT have to dictate our reaction to new events.

        We need not remain the prisoner of a painful past . . . we can be the architect of a fabulous future.

        Each day is a new day full of possibility. It is up to us to CHOOSE how to spend it. If we remain mired in unpleasant memories from the past, we create unnecessary suffering ~ reliving the same hurt over and over again.

        If we focus on WHO we are right NOW . . . we add to our joy by making the best possible choices for the person we’ve become.

        “Do what you can with what you have where you are.” ~ Teddy Roosevelt

        Thanks for a fab post!

  5. Oh, Arthur is just so sweet, Christine! What a cutie.

    I have to agree with Nancy…living in the now is does not mean denying the past or not dreaming of the future. It just means not being defined or held prisoner by the sadnesses of the past. Or wasting our nows because we are so focused on some imagined future perfectness. She expressed it beautifully!

    Christine, you might like this blog. I recently met Prudence and enjoy her words of peace and wisdom.

    This post includes a story about her dog as well. Enjoy!

    1. Thanks for the link, Cynthia. She had the same thought about the dog being in the moment as I had about Arthur, although hers is a very sad tale with a happy ending.

  6. “It’s a dog’s life” takes on new meaning in light of this post. How thoughtful that you are already thinking about your best friend’s reaction to his resort stay. I’ll be dog-sitting this weekend so my niece doesn’t have to subject her dog to boarding. Maybe you have a friend who would love a visit from Arthur?

    1. Our daughter Anna watches usually watches him for us, but she lives a 2-hour drive away, and it just didn’t work out for this weekend.

      At least in the boarding facility I know he will be safe.

  7. Seems everyone has already imparted some sage advice. I can only add that life’s an adventure offering a variety of bridges to cross. No one said we’re not allowed to backtrack…once we’ve crossed a bridge. I happen to love covered bridges, though I’ve not seen many, especially here on the west coast. So believe me when I go through another one on the east coast, I will definitely go through it a couple of times at least…and feel giddy while doing it. So when you’ve the chance to get all warm and fuzzy reminiscing about the past…as I’m often wont to do…I say, heck! go for it…wallow in it…

    for that’s the moment you’re in… 🙂

    1. I know. All the advice is great, isn’t it? I like covered bridges too, although they creep me out a little bit. There are pretty many here in the midwest.

  8. I love what you have written here, Christine, and of course who wouldn’t love Arthur. He is simply adorable and even though you have to ‘ditch’ him I know somewhere inside he will understand. I agree with what you’ve said and it is good to live in the moment and in doing so it helps us to live fully but one cannot be who one is without a past and having things to look forward to gives us dreams and aspirations so all three are really necessary. Most of my writing is based on my life as it is, like yourself, what has shaped me and I could not write any other way. Thank You!

    1. Thanks Renee,
      We’re home now and Arthur back here with us. He is completely wiped out. I don’t think he sleeps much there. It takes him a few days to recover. I feel bad doing that to him, but the agreement when we first got a dog years ago was that we wouldn’t let it stop us from traveling. We all just have to deal.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this.


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