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When I was younger, I always tried to imagine how my future would be, and how it would feel like. I tried to imagine how my relationships would be, how my house would be, what my job would be, etc., and I tried to feel a different sensation, a good sensation of living and enjoying those moments.

Years passed. I changed, I accomplished things. But I don't feel that great sensation that I was expecting. In fact, I think of my past and I feel good sensations about it, as if I was alive back in that time, and that now I'm not.

So what's the problem here? Am I expecting too much from life? Am I expecting to feel things that simply don't exist? Or am I "broken" somehow?

For example, I already thought that using technology "broke" me: playing video games or simply spending too many hours working in front of the computer made me stop appreciating the real life, and now I can't connect back to what is real.

I also thought that the fact that I'm always worrying about the future makes me stop appreciating the present: I'm always thinking about what I'm going to do next. I'm rarely thinking of what I'm doing NOW. I often say to my wife that "feels like I'm never here. My body is here, but my mind is always, always somewhere else".

I could go on and on with details and examples. But basically my question is: is there a way to feel alive, feel like we're living the moment? Are you like that? Or are you like me?

Just some complementary info: I AM happy. I'm not depressed or anything. I have people and things that make me very happy, but it's not about that. It's simply about feeling the present moment. I want to know if it's possible to enjoy every second of the present moment, instead of thinking how nice the past was or how cool the future could be.

I'm curious to know what are your opinions and experiences. Thank you!

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    Rafa : Welcome. I am not sure that philosophy is the right site for your question. There is nothing wrong with the question. The only query is where is can best be handled. I will see what other members think. – Geoffrey Thomas Feb 9 at 20:24
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    This may be better on a spirituality site. One place that might be worth checking is Blue Mountain Center of Meditation featuring works by Eknath Easwaran using mantras and passage meditation. Another, consider bodily changes to enhance breathing. See Will Johnson's The Posture of Meditation. This is more about "rolfing", a way to heal with posture. Another, consider diet. See Steven Gundry's The Plant Paradox. If you are overweight in any way or have any medical issues this might be worth looking into to see if it might help. Best wishes and welcome to Philosophy. – Frank Hubeny Feb 9 at 20:53
  • Thank you Geoffrey Thomas and Frank Hubeny! I'm sorry, I wasn't sure if philosophy was the right site, I feel really lost when I'm thinking about all those subjects, it was hard to find a category that fits. But thank you very much for your suggestions! – Rafa Verginelli Feb 9 at 22:09
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    Clinical depression is not related to happiness although feelings of unhappiness may be. Depression can also involve "flat affect" i.e. a low intensity of emotional response. There is also a related condition called, at various times, disphoria or disthemia where your baseline "feeling" seem biased to the negative, i.e. you always feel a little miserable and reasons for feeling good don't seem to quite have the expected effect. There are many symptoms of depression that may or may not present in a particular person... At any rate, doing a checkup with a psychiatrist is a good bet. – christo183 Feb 10 at 14:16
  • Marcus Aurelius discusses on how to live in the present moment. – Tautological Revelations May 24 at 20:31
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You my friend, are not alone! And I for one congratulate you for seeking answers. You're also seeking answers in the right place.

I had exactly the same experience and to some extent I still do, probably always will. But so do countless millions of others. Though this feeling is more common now (in fact it used to be called 'the modern disease') humans have suffered from this since the dawn of time. Often it's mistaken as 'the mid life crisis', but it's just part of what might trigger the mid life crisis.

The causes of this feeling are numerous and complex. for example, the brain changes as you age, you become less 'certain' about things. Young people have unrealistic expectations, in part because of pervasive societal lies. Life just isn't fair, and things get in the way of your 'art' as you age.

*But the question isn't why are you feeling this, the question is what are you going to do about it? How CAN you live in the moment? *

Everyone has an answer, from Socrates to The Dalai Lama, so I can't cover all of it here. So before people vote this down as opinion and not an answer, I want to stress that I am summarising an intellectual journey here.

Initially I believed that for 15 years of my life I had one clear goal, and I worked tirelessly towards it. When I achieved that goal, I never really created a new one. I was goal-less, perhaps that was at the root of my malaise? But that wasn't it. My work had given me exactly what I'd worked for and yet I wasn't happy? I mean, what more can one realistically wish for, than to achieve one's goals? Well... this is part of the human condition. Humans, just want more.

Epicurus believed that a kind of Ataraxia could actually be achieved, but first one had to understand what was at the root of ones unease. Essentially, it's unrealistic expectations and unhealthy desires.

He essentially taught a kind of lifestyle that eventually spread throughout the western world, and in the pre-christian period was widely accepted as the correct way to live. When people refer to 'the good life', they are usually referring to a kind of Epicurian pursuit of Ataraxia.

My advise to you is that you research it. It's not a cure, it's a pursuit, as in fact happiness is not a state, it's a pursuit.

Some key points from Epicurianism :

  • Recognise value in family and friends.

  • Avoid public life, remain private. Particularly avoid politics.

  • Learn what it is that you 'need' and recognise everything else as damaging 'desire'.
  • Remain modest, polite and try to live with honour.
  • Set realistically achievable goals, and get joy from achieving them.
  • Ignore anyone who tries to tell you should shoot higher. Let them do that.
  • Live as simply as is comfortable.
  • Observe everything, learn everything, you are a tourist in the universe.
  • learn to let the past be done, never, ever worry about the future.
  • Seek to find pleasure in everything from the sound of a fart to the smiles of a stranger, eventually you'll find pleasure everywhere.

It's a work in progress. On a personal note I've discovered things. Modesty of goal brings genuine confidence, it does bring a kind of ataraxia. And that kind of confidence and certainty attracts jealousy. Some people hate nothing more than to see someone happy, who has less 'stuff' than they do. Those, are exactly the sort of people that Epicurus wanted to help. One should recognise those people and learn to politely ignore them until they go away.

  • Another interesting opinion is the one Voltaire outlines in Candide. Work.. brings happiness not because it provides resources.. but because it stops the mind from wandering – Richard Feb 9 at 22:04
  • Wow, it was great to read that! Thank you, Richard. And I'm glad that I already practice most of those key points from Epicurianism. I'm not greedy, I like simple things, I'm away from politics, soccer and religion (by saying I don't mean to offend or inferiorize any group or individual, it's just that I've seen a lot of anger being created by those subjects and I prefer to not be a part of it), I don't hate anyone, I have no enemies, I don't spend more than 1 minute in any social media, etc. I'll follow your advice and I'll make my personal research to seek and discover my state of Ataraxia. – Rafa Verginelli Feb 9 at 22:24
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According to Terry Eagleton, what makes life meaningful is not metaphysical knowledge, but ethical living: (page 93)

The meaning of life is less a proposition than a practice. It is not an esoteric truth, but a certain form of life. As such, it can only be really known in the living.

What kind of ethical living leads to this meaningful life? He notes that this ethics is not an individual affair nor an individual state of mind, but anyone can do it. It is a kind of non-erotic, reciprocal love: (page 97)

What we have called love is the way we can reconcile our search for individual fulfilment with the fact that we are social animals. For love means creating for another the space in which he might flourish, at the same time as he does this for you. The fulfilment of each becomes the ground for the fulfilment of the other. When we realize our natures in this way, we are at our best.

Live this reciprocal, social relationship and issues of happiness, meaningfulness and living in the now as individual states of mind should take care of themselves. One will not longer be "just surviving" as an individual.


Eagleton, T. (2007). The meaning of life. Oxford University Press.

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[First consider, if academic philosophy is the right place to seek advice in this matter. My answer here is not any sort of therapeutic, medical, and/or clinical advice.]


The Present Moment and Mindfulness

These are the following fields of study and practices, of philosophy and elswhere, that encourage focusing on the present moment:--

  • Buddhism

  • Exercise

  • Logic

  • Meditation

  • Stoicism (philosophy)


Stoic Philosophy

Marcus Aurelius discusses living in the present moment in Stoic philosophy. I recommend reading Meditations.

"Remember that neither the future nor the past pains thee, but only the present. But this is reduced to a very little, if thou only circumscribest it, and chidest thy mind, if it is unable to hold out against even this." — Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, Meditations, VIII, 36.


Buddhism, Meditation, and Mindfulness

The Buddha is recognized in various philosophical canons, including Eastern and Western, as having had insights into the nature of suffering. Buddhism for many, remains as both, a practical and philosophical insight into suffering.

Living in the present moment is emphasized in many Buddhist traditions, such as Zen Buddhism.

"The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly." — Kyōkai, Bukkyō Dendō. The teachings of Buddha. Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd, 2005.

In Buddhism, I strongly recommend this book, Turning the Mind Into an Ally.

"It seems we all agree that training the body through exercise, diet, and relaxation is a good idea, but why don't we think about training our mind?" — Mipham, Sakyong, and Sakyong Miphan Rinpoche. Turning the mind into an ally. Penguin, 2004.

A good book on simple, secular Zen can also be worthwhile. Try to find The Complete Idiot's Guide to Zen Living (please, kindly excuse the flamboyant/harsh title of the book).


Formal Logic, Informal Logic, and Mindfulness

Using formal logic as an attempt to improve mindfulness and mental health is experimental and controversial at this point.

Essentially, you use heuristics (rules of thumb) to improve your mood. If given a big problem, use the heuristic of "dividing a big problem into smaller problems."

  • Big problem -> Heuristic -> [dividing a big problem into smaller problems] -> Smaller Problems.

  • Big problem -> Heuristic -> [focus on what you can control right now, this very moment, this very instant of time] -> Smaller Problems.

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Wow, the answers are wonderfully all over the map, yet no one has mentioned existentialism, famously espoused by the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. Existentialists essentially believe that life has no meaning except for what we give it.

If you spend your life playing video games (as you mentioned), then your life will be pretty meaningless. But if you become a student of foreign languages or a mountain climber, or if you fight for a cause bigger than yourself, then your life suddenly has meaning.

I recently discovered a philosopher named Albert Camus, who some describe as an existentialist. However, his school of thought is more popularly called absurdism. As I understand it, absurdists see a disconnect between man's search for meaning and harmony and the world around us, which is actually quite chaotic and seemingly senseless. To me, it smacks of cognitive dissonance, where the mind short circuits after being subjected to two contradictory ideas or beliefs.

So what is the solution to this odd state of affairs, suicide, as some have suggested? To my surprise, Camus replied, "No - revolution!"

It's worth noting that Sartre was a huge fan of one of the most famous revolutionaries, Che Guevara.

This is in striking contrast to epicureanism, discussed in one of the answers above. As I understand it, Epicurus taught that we should avoid politics and set modest, easily achievable goals for ourselves. He sounds like the opposite of Che Guevara and would probably not be a big fan of revolution. Nor is it easy to understand how a society composed of people who ignore politics could better itself. To me, epicureanism sounds awfully similar to hedonism.

So here we have two very different roads, epicureanism vs revolution. Other paths can be found in Eastern religion.

Buddhism particularly intrigues me, though I so far know little about it. Buddhism is generally regarded as a religion, or belief system, that fosters peace and a greater connection with the world around us. On the negative side, I sometimes have the impression that Buddhism may be a little selfish, urging people to seek a personal "Nirvana" while ignoring the problems swirling all around them.

But I don't know if that's an accurate description or not. Maybe it just describes the pop Buddhism that became so popular in the U.S. in the 1960's.

For me, it's a question of balance. I want happiness and peace of mind, but I can't turn my back on my children and the environment. I want peace and harmony, but I know there are enemies that must be vanquished.

In that spirit, my heroes include great thinkers, but I especially admire great thinkers who also become great doers. Sisyphus is another character to peruse, if you aren't already familiar with him.

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