In modern society we often talk about an individual living for the moment: making the most of each minute . . . because who knows what might happen next?
In personal growth, spiritual development and conscious evolution we talk about living in the moment: being totally present in this particular eternal now.
How similar and different are these two ideas and related states of mind? As a livelong observer of my fellow-man (as a teenager I was too shy to engage socially, so I observed instead), I’ve noticed various features which I can now equate to levels and modes of consciousness. I hope you find them interesting and useful.
Being in the moment and living for the moment share a positive intent of not being dragged down by concerns of the past nor worries about the future; they are both about engaging fully in the present activity. Surely it’s good to be enjoying and fully immersed in whatever one is spending that period of time!
Well yes. But. Here the differences between the two is striking:
There is a sense in those living for the moment, of disconnection from reality. Indeed the very reason for doing their current activity is often an attempt to forget the things in their life they’d rather forget. By contrast, the intent of living in the moment is to connect deeply into reality: not to ignore or deny difficult issues but to put them into perspective, to see them for what they are in the grand scheme of life, the universe and everything.
Likewise, those living for the moment can be self-obsessed, so unaware of others that their ‘devil may care’ attitudes can make them uncaring; they are disconnected from their own inner need to love and be compassionate. Living in the moment, however, is about living in love: being centred in the divine zest for life with compassion for all.
Whilst both are about engaging physically in the present moment, enjoying whatever sensations are on offer, here the similarity ends. Those living for the moment may well be dependent on those sensory pleasures: eating, drinking or extreme pursuits, for example. Those living in the moment have no such attachment or addiction; the glass of wine, the special meal, the toboggan ride (or whatever) will be enjoyed deeply, with appreciation for all the subtleties and nuances of the experience. And then, once over, forgotten, without cravings.
Looked at from a perspective of consciousness, these two, outwardly similar ways of beings, can thus be seen as opposite ends of a spectrum. Whilst Being In the Moment is all about being fully conscious, wholly present, Living For the Moment could be seen as being almost unconscious by comparison: from this state of mind what’s said and done is typically a reaction to sub-conscious fear, hate, distrust, self-doubt and the like.
I hasten to add that all this is not to judge or condemn those who life for moment. In many cases, from what I’ve observed, given their situation, history and past experiences even a saint might struggle to stay present and connected.
Neither is it a dualistic situation: an individual may be able to be in the moment in some circumstances but lapses into living for the moment at others.
Say for example you’ve had a trying day. You treat yourself to a glass or two of wine that evening. If that wine is being genuinely appreciated, if it’s being enjoyed as part of a nourishing meal, when it’s enable a free-flowing conversation with loved ones and providing an opportunity to openly express feelings and receive (and accept) new perspectives then an extra glass or two would probably be considered ‘going with flow’ . . . being in the moment, for the greater good.
If the wine is being guzzled and gulped down with no engagement with flavour or bouquet, if any conversation is full of blame and judgements, then we’re probably in the realms of living for the moment.
The difference is not so much in what you do, rather in how you do it.