How many times have you went out to eat at a new restaurant, and the conversation has went something like this:
“The food is good, but it’s not as good as the food at <insert favorite restaurant name(s) here>”
“I love the ambiance here. It’s the best I’ve ever experienced at a restaurant.”
“The drink selection isn’t as good as the one they have across town.”
In my case, it happens a lot. I enjoy discovering great restaurants, so my natural inclination is to invoke comparisons with other places I like and experiences I’ve had. While comparisons are not all bad and necessary to make better decisions in the future, they do have a downside.
Through my meditation practices, I’ve learned that the only moment that matters is the present one. The past can’t be changed, and future is simply an idea in our mind. You have to be able to let go of both the past and the future if you want to be present in the moment, or mindful as the cool kids like to say these days.
So what does this have to do with comparisons? Comparisons take our focus and our mind away from the present. Making comparisons push us into the past or cast us into the future. Instead of enjoying the moment, enjoying the company of others with us, enjoying what is front of us, we get carried away thinking about the past or contemplating the future.
And it’s not just limited to restaurants. It could be the vacation you’re taking, the holiday get together with family, a wedding reception, a night out with friends.
The key is avoiding comparisons while in the moment. Instead, allow each experience to stand on its own. Immerse yourself in the present. Sure, the experience my not be the best, or the best ever, but it may be the best at that time, in that moment with those you are sharing the experience with.
As part of my efforts to practice being more mindful, I find myself trying to avoid comparisons in the moment. I want to savor what is happening around me, to enjoy each and every experience as it happens, to be fully present in the moment. I’m not claiming to be perfect at it, which is why I consider it a practice. It’s a goal that I am striving towards and working to get better at.
Bottom line, making comparisons is not wrong. Comparison are not evil. They do not need to be avoided However, they are best done in retrospect, not in the present. Making comparisons in the present is “a trap worth avoiding” because it takes us away from the here and now, away from our ability to embrace the now and enjoy the journey of life.