Being present is absolutely central to experiencing peace and happiness. Because then we are free of the endless "what ifs" that our ego-mind throws at us. Free of our cravings and attachments. Releasing all desire for our life to be different in any way from the way it is right now at this moment. Just being and experiencing the fullness of the moment.
But what if the present moment is a bad experience, even let's say, really bad. If that is your reality in the moment, how do you get past that experience, especially when the bad moment is likely to last for several moments, if not hours or days?
There are several levels of answer to this question. The first is that an experience usually happens in an instant. If the bad moment lasts for hours or days, it is because we hold on to the bad experience, we play it over and over again in our mind. We cannot let it go. This is self-torture.
We do this because we react to the experience with our emotions, especially with our core emotion of insecurity. To get out of this trap, your intent should therefore be to experience life with dispassion, free of emotion. If you experience something that is bad with dispassion, you will register what happened and then move on.
Of course, most people do not view life or their experiences with dispassion. This is not how we are raised.
To experience things with dispassion, you must practice The Heart's Embrace (see my post of that title). When you open your heart to embrace all aspects of your being and experience - past, present, and future - nothing offends. And so all internal and external struggle ceases, you know you have everything you need inside yourself to be at peace and happy, and you will allow nothing to disturb that peace and happiness.
When you are in that psychic space, you will be free of mental obstructions, which will give you the ability to experience things directly, with dispassion, free of labels, free of the intervention of the ego-mind, knowing that things are they way they are because it's just the way it is. It's all ok. And so your mind will rest undisturbed.
OK, you say. Let's say I'm able to view this bad experience with dispassion, but what do I do with that in the moment? You'll be amazed to discover that if you are really able to be present, view the experience with dispassion, and not project it's continuation or impact on the future, everything becomes manageable.
But beyond the moment being manageable, life, certainly life as a Buddhist, is not about experiencing manageability. It is about experiencing peace and happiness every moment. How do we do that in this situation?
We do that by being aware of and following through with our purpose in life, which is to offer ourselves and others joy. Yes, offering yourself joy is your purpose in life. I'm not joking. (See my post, "Offer Myself Joy!")
And you offer yourself joy by taking joy in each passing moment, regardless what is happening. Being in touch with the positive energy in your heart. Releasing all desire that your life be different in any way from the way it is at the moment. Being aware of all you are grateful for. Having compassion for yourself and loving yourself unconditionally.
These are all things that you do, actions you take, for yourself. It is not something you receive; it is proactive behavior.
Granted, this state is only possible if you have freed yourself, or are on the path to freeing yourself, from the control of your ego mind. Clearly, not an easy matter, but one of the main intents of Buddhist practice. (See my post, "How to Free Yourself from the Control of Your Ego-Mind. ")
The other thing central to taking joy in each moment, regardless what is going on, is to remember that all things are impermanent. Usually we tend to think of good things, things we like, as being impermanent and we fear the loss. But things that are difficult for us or harmful are also impermanent. One never knows what the future will bring in that sense.
As a result of having done The Heart's Embrace and so nothing offends, and you know you have everything you need inside yourself to be at peace and happy, you find faith that regardless what life throws at you, you will always be ok, safe spiritually, because you have returned home and will always return home to your true Buddha nature. And just as you are safe spiritually now in the face of whatever problem you are facing, you have faith that you will always be ok, you will always be at peace regardless.
With that faith, you've reached the final aspect of offering yourself joy, of taking joy in each moment: manifesting a state where you are at peace and happy regardless what is going one around you or to you. A state where you are free, spiritually, regardless what your physical or material status is.
This is the top of the pyramid of manifesting, the holy grail, in that it is the most basic, the most fundamental aspect to everything else you might manifest or that you have desired. For it's always at its core about being at peace and happy. It's just that our ego-mind has a very different picture of what we need to be in that state. Once you are free of its control, you view yourself and the world differently and know that you need nothing external to be at peace and happy. It all comes from within, from you heart, from your true Buddha nature.