Acting in the present moment to make the most of your time on Earth
Ethical long term thriving
Truth and compassion
Life consists of a long series of present moments. The present moment is where we
actually live, and also where we [help to] create the future. So it follows that
we should: 1) enjoy it; 2) act wisely.
The way to achieve compassion, the mechanics of making living beings flourish, is
to put the right conditions in place, like when we tend and nurture a plant in our
This is a very different way of doing things from the one we may be used to: the
intellectual, ego-driven, calculating way of trying to control results and outcomes.
The problems with this are that the mind is intimately tied up with the emotions
and self-interest and is part of the ego in general, so we cannot rely on it to be
objective in a long-term sense when it comes to thinking about what is best for others
as well as oneself. The ego, since it is heavily influenced by the emotions, will
tend to want what feels good for "you" right now.
We cannot control the consequences of our actions, and we just cannot micro-manage
the future to the extent to which the mind, and ego, would like.
But to put the right conditions in place for flourishing to happen places all the
emphasis on our actions in the present moment; promotes stillness, and a meditative,
here-and-now attitude; promotes virtue (the quality of our actions); promotes joy
and optimism and cheerfulness and reduces stress (because we are building a better
future for ourselves and others).
Activity becomes a patient unfolding of events. We trust in the wisdom of the deep
The most important thing is to find out what is the most important thing.
Intuition may be said to be a form of deep physical knowledge. If, say, we are learning
to play tennis, at first we have to be told what to do and to consciously follow
the right moves. But in time, and after much practice, thanks to neuroplasticity,
this knowledge becomes hard-wired into the brain and we can effortlessly do it well
without thinking. In fact, if we think about it, this ruins our playing technique.
Truth and compassion are both intuitive – we can intuitively feel them as well as
know them intellectually. Both are part of our physical reality as living beings.
Compassion, the universal pressure to flourish, the Healing Principle, is part of
the fabric of nature. Observation, awareness, is intuitive too.
This contemplative approach to action forces the ego to take a back seat. We can
“feel” what is the right thing to do – this is the “still small voice of God”.
Actions take place in the here and now, so therefore can be part of mindful meditation.
Striving and non-striving
You can’t always cure, but you can always care.
Striving means to focus only on the end goal. Non-striving means to take notice
of every step in the journey and to make it of good quality. This way, if we aim
high and fall short, we have still got somewhere.
Relax, slow down, and be diligent. Diligence means to carry out every step of a
task mindfully and properly. If you slow down, you should find that you work faster
overall, in a more relaxed and comfortable way.
There are certain strategies we can use to access intuitive wisdom and to promote
flourishing in a long term ethical way. We cannot control the consequences of our
actions, only the actions themselves.
seek to find knowledge: facts and information about the situation. Observe dispassionately,
without making value judgements.
We attend to what is relevant to our goals. In Gestalt therapy, there is the concept
of figure/ground formation. From moment to moment, what is relevant (to fitness)
stands out in the foreground of our consciousness (the "figure"), and the rest is
ignored as irrelevant ("ground"). This makes good evolutionary sense. It also means
that our effective perception is somewhat narrow and laser-like: we are just not
aware of most of what is going on, because it is irrelevant to our needs or goals.
There are two aspects to perception:
the raw data
our reaction to the data –
what it means to us – is it relevant, i.e. does it represent an opportunity or a
if it is relevant, what are we going to do about it?
This means that, inevitably and biologically, perception is subjective: we only notice
things that interest or threaten "me".
Rationality is a separate faculty from perception. Rationality means logical reasoning,
and if it is to be successful, it has to be objective rather than subjective: to
not be influenced by what we like or dislike. We can reason logically and objectively
about our subjective perceptions and reactions. If our reasoning is not influenced
by our subjective likes and dislikes, then whether something is personally relevant
to us becomes irrelevant, and we able to widen our view, to see more of what is in
front of us: the bigger picture.
This is particularly important when dealing with people, as it facilitates empathy.
Objectivity can also be gained by seeing a situation from multiple viewpoints, rather
than just one.
Fixed opinions, final judgements, and complacency, are enemies of rationality. Instead,
accept the reality that you can never be sure of your knowledge, which implies the
need to keep on asking questions.
We see that everything has multiple causes and influencing factors. Powerful situations
have powerful causes and influencing factors. Everything, subjectively, has a mixture
of positive and negative attributes.
Try looking at your situation from a “bird’s eye view” or from the viewpoint of a
disinterested third party. Talk it over with friends. Research has shown that we
are often wiser about our friends’ problems than we are about our own.
Truth and compassion
When in doubt, be true, and compassionate. Truth and compassion, these fundamental
aspects of being human, may be accessed through the fundamental sense of intuition.
Deception, or manipulation, or unkindness, will eventually come back to bite you,
and your clever plan will be undone.