Nostalgia & Presence in the Here and Now — Written 06/05/2012

“The term nostalgia describes a yearning for the past, often in idealized form.The word is a learned formation of a Greek compound, consisting of νόστος (nóstos), meaning “homecoming”, a Homeric word, and ἄλγος (álgos), meaning “pain, ache”. It was described as a medical condition, a form of melancholy, in the Early Modern period, and became an important trope in Romanticism.

In common, less clinical usage, nostalgia sometimes includes a general interest in past eras and their personalities and events, especially the “good old days,” such as a sudden image, or remembrance of something from one’s childhood.

The scientific literature on nostalgia is quite thin, but there are a few studies that have attempted to pin down the essence of nostalgia, and the reasons that we feel that warm glow when recalling the past. Smell and touch are also strong evokers of nostalgia and memories in general due to the processing of these stimuli first passing through the amygdala, the emotional seat of the brain. These recollections of our past are usually important events, people we care about, and places where we have spent time. Music can also be a strong trigger of nostalgia.

A 17th Century medical student coined the term “nostalgia” for anxieties displayed by Swiss mercenaries fighting away from home, although some military doctors believed their problems were specific to the Swiss and caused by the Alpine racket of cowbells.”

“The concept of the metaphysics of presence is an important consideration within the area of deconstruction. The deconstructive interpretation holds that the entire history of Western philosophy and its language and traditions has emphasized the desire for immediate access to meaning, and thus built a metaphysics or ontotheology around the privileging of presence over absence.

Deconstructive thinkers, like Jacques Derrida, describe their task as the questioning or deconstruction of this metaphysical tendency in philosophy. This argument is largely based on the earlier work of Martin Heidegger, who in Being and Time claimed the parasitic nature of the theoretical attitude of pure presence upon a more originary involvement with the world in concepts such as the ready-to-hand and being-with. Friedrich Nietzsche is a more distant, but clear, influence as well.

The presence to which Heidegger refers is both a presence as in a “now” and also a presence as in an eternal, always present, as one might associate with god or the “eternal” laws of science. This hypostatized (underlying) belief in presence is undermined by novel phenomenological ideas — such that presence itself does not subsist, but comes about primordially through the action of our futural projection, our realization of finitude and the reception or rejection of the traditions of our time.”

“Living in the present is to be aware of what is happening to you, what you are doing and what you are feeling and thinking.”

“Living in the present means concentrating on what is happening now, enjoying it and making the most of it.”

“Living in the present means concentrating on what you are doing each moment.”

“You gain peace of mind.”

“Remember, the present moment is very brief. It always turns immediately into the past. The future has not happened. Live in the present.”

“Refuse to relive the past. Change the DVD-HD/videocassette in your mind!”

“Enjoy the present moment!”

“Find the positive, good and useful in each moment!”

  1. “Remove unneeded possessions. Minimalism forces you to live in the present. Removing items associated with past memories or lives frees us up to stop living in the past and start living in the present.
  2. Smile. Each day is full of endless possibilities! Start it with a smile. You are in control of your attitude every morning, keep it optimistic and expectant.
  3. Fully appreciate the moments of today. Soak in as much of today as you possibly can – the sights, the sounds, the smells, the emotions, the triumph, and the sorrow.
  4. Forgive past hurts. If you are harboring resentment towards another human being because of past hurts, choose to forgive and move on. The harm was their fault. But allowing it to impact your mood today is yours.
  5. Love your job. If you just “survive” the workweek constantly waiting for the next weekend “to get here,” you are wasting 71% of your life (5 out of 7 days). there are two solutions: 1) find a new job that you actually enjoy (it’s out there), or 2) find something that you appreciate about your current career and focus on that rather than the negatives.
  6. Dream about the future, but work hard today. Dream big. Set goals and plans for the future. But working hard today is always the first step towards realizing your dreams tomorrow. Don’t allow dreaming about tomorrow to replace living in today.
  7. Don’t dwell on past accomplishments. If you are still talking about what you did yesterday, you haven’t done much today.
  8. Stop worrying. You can’t fully appreciate today if you worry too much about tomorrow. Realize that tomorrow is going to happen whether you worry about it or not. And since worry has never accomplished anything for anybody, redirect your mental energy elsewhere.
  9. Think beyond old solutions to problems. Our world is changing so fast that most of yesterday’s solutions are no longer the right answers today. Don’t get locked into a “but that’s how we’ve always done it” mentality. Yesterday’s solutions are not today’s solutions and they are certainly not tomorrow’s solutions.
  10. Conquer addictions. Addictions in your life hold you hostage. They keep you from living a completely free life today. Find some help. Take the steps. And remove their influence over your life. “


““The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” – Buddha”

“Why living in the present will change your life:”

““If you worry about what might be, and wonder what might have been, you will ignore what is.” ”

“Start living, stop conceptualizing:”

“The worst part about living in the past or the future is that you’re giving up your personal power. If you’re not living now, you’re giving up your life. You’re surrendering your power to create. If there are changes you’d like to make in life, it’s best to do it now. If you’re living in the past, you can’t do anything about it, it’s gone. If you’re worrying about the future, you’re living somewhere that doesn’t exist. It hasn’t happened yet. If you want to change your life, the only place you can do it is in the present. But first you need to accept life as it is. When it comes down to it your mind is the only thing keeping you from living in the present.”


“A new way, 5 ways to start living in the present:”


“1. Don’t try to quiet your mind”

“2. You are not your thoughts”

“3. Breathe, you’re alive”

“4. Music for meditation”

“5. Practice mindfulness”


“As Mahayana Buddhism Chan/Zen teaches, practicing mindfulness means we practice our awareness in all our actions. Whether we are washing dishes or tying our shoes, our mind is focused on whatever we are doing. We are not thinking about the bills that we have to pay, or the phone call we need to make when we get to the office. We are simply living in the moment.”


“According to many traditions within Mahāyāna Buddhism, on the way to becoming a Buddha, a bodhisattva proceeds through ten, or sometimes fourteen, grounds or bhūmis. Below is the list of the ten bhūmis and their descriptions according to the Avataṃsaka Sūtra and The Jewel Ornament of Liberation, a treatise by Gampopa, an influential teacher of the Tibetan Kagyu school. (Other schools give slightly variant descriptions.)

Before a bodhisattva arrives at the first ground, he or she first must travel the first two of the five paths:

  1. the path of accumulation
  2. the path of preparation

The ten grounds of the bodhisattva then can be grouped into the next three paths

  • bhūmi 1 the path of insight
  • bhūmis 2-7 the path of meditation
  • bhūmis 8-10 the path of no more learning

The chapter of ten grounds in the Avataṃsaka Sūtra refers to 52 stages. The 10 grounds are:

  1. Great Joy: It is said that being close to enlightenment and seeing the benefit for all sentient beings, one achieves great joy, hence the name. In this bhūmi the bodhisattvas practice all perfections (pāramitās), but especially emphasizing generosity (dāna).
  2. Stainless: In accomplishing the second bhūmi, the bodhisattva is free from the stains of immorality, therefore, this bhūmi is named “stainless”. The emphasized perfection is moral discipline (śīla).
  3. Luminous: The third bhūmi is named “luminous”, because, for a bodhisattva who accomplishes this bhūmi, the light of Dharma is said to radiate for others from the bodhisattva. The emphasized perfection is patience (kṣānti).
  4. Radiant: This bhūmi is called “radiant”, because it is said to be like a radiating light that fully burns that which opposes enlightenment. The emphasized perfection is vigor (vīrya).
  5. Very difficult to train: Bodhisattvas who attain this bhūmi strive to help sentient beings attain maturity, and do not become emotionally involved when such beings respond negatively, both of which are difficult to do. The emphasized perfection is meditative concentration (dhyāna).
  6. Obviously Transcendent: By depending on the perfection of wisdom, [the bodhisattva] does not abide in either saṃsāra or nirvāṇa, so this state is “obviously transcendent”. The emphasized perfection is wisdom (prajñā).
  7. Gone afar: Particular emphasis is on the perfection of skillful means (upāya), to help others.
  8. Immovable: The emphasized virtue is aspiration. This, the “immovable” bhūmi, is the bhūmi at which one becomes able to choose his place of rebirth.
  9. Good Discriminating Wisdom: The emphasized virtue is power.
  10. Cloud of Dharma: The emphasized virtue is the practice of primordial wisdom.

After the ten bhūmis, according to Mahāyāna Buddhism, one attains complete enlightenment and becomes a Buddha.

With the 52 stages, the Śūraṅgama Sūtra recognizes 57 stages. With the 10 grounds, various Vajrayāna schools recognize 3–10 additional grounds, mostly 6 more grounds with variant descriptions.

A bodhisattva above the 7th ground is called a mahāsattva. Some bodhisattvas such as Samantabhadra are also said to have already attained buddhahood.”


“How can something so basic be so hard? The good news is that it’s not. It just seems that way because of roadblocks that we create.”


“Roadblock 1: Trying Too Hard”

“We can change the future, but the present moment can only be as it is. To be mindful give up your goal of how this moment should be better. All that is required is to non-judgmentally pay attention to your experience.”

“Roadblock 2: Believing All Your Thoughts”

“When you notice a thought wishing the present moment were different, take a figurative step back and realize it is just a thought; you don’t have to believe it.”

“Roadblock 3: Resisting Thoughts”

“Don’t be judgmental toward your thoughts. An option is to mentally note an obsessive thought by just saying, “thought.” Do so in a friendly manner. After all, it is probably an old friend that has visited many times.”

“Roadblock 4: Believing That “Mindfulness Is Too Hard””

“The reason people think mindfulness is too hard is that they are using the wrong yardstick. Of course you can’t stay focused on one object for ten minutes. However, I bet you can do what I call the “one breath challenge.” Try it now. That’s all that is necessary. Even a moment of mindfulness helps decrease the stress of not only this moment, but also the moments that follow.”

“Roadblock 5: Trying to Avoid Sadness, Anxiety (and Other Emotions)”

“Sadness is part of life. What happens when you try to push away the feeling? Bingo! You get sad about being sad. The secondary emotion happens as a reaction to the primary emotion.  Extended suffering is usually the result of a secondary emotion. If you accept your primary emotions, the secondary ones never come into play.”

“Roadblock 6: Justifying Your Emotions”

“When you are sad, be sad! Don’t resist it and don’t justify it. You are allowed to be sad. Emotions really aren’t that bad. By not resisting or justifying your emotions, they resume a more normal flow from one to another.”

“Roadblock 7: Believing That Being Mindful Means Being Unmotivated”

“Some of the most important changes in the world were accomplished by wise people motivated by the compassion and passion inherent in living in the present moment.”


“Each time you mindfully let go of thoughts about how life should be, and enjoy life as it is, you change.”


“By remembering to enjoy this breath, this footstep, this breeze, this bite of food, you not only live this moment to the fullest, but also hone your skill in being mindful. The only time you can choose is right now.”


“Mindfulness isn’t a quick fix – like any skill, it requires commitment and practice – but with persistent gentle effort, we are able to retrain our brains and bodies towards feeling more peaceful and content.

Here are a few ways to get started in “real time management”:

• Pay attention to your breathing. Find a quiet space and concentrate on the flow of your breath, in and out. When your mind begins to wander, gently bring it back to noticing your breathing.

• Bring awareness to sensations of touch. Our bodies are always in the present moment. Consciously feeling your feet on the floor, your bottom on a chair, or your clothes against your skin can bring your mind back too.

• Watch your speed. Three times a day, for one minute, simply stop what you’re doing and notice what’s happening in your mind and body. Becoming more familiar with your mind’s habitual patterns can help you to work with them much more skilfully.”




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