It's just that in this "being present", I just wanted to find the off button on my mind. I just wanted to stop thinking. And... that's good if you tend to, like me, think a lot and want to settle your thoughts down. What I forgot was that my mind is a tool to be used, when I need it, and that being present also involves using my mind.
In fact, being in the "now" should give me a new use of my mind. Which is I can look at all of the things in the now and embrace them completely with open arms. I can stop fighting what is here now. I can deeply accept everything around me. This radical, deep acceptance involves looking at the contours of my life in the "now" and figuring out what it all means. This is a wonderful use of my mind. Instead of reacting and having circular thoughts about this or that, I can slow down and survey what the landscape of life looks like and proactively take steps to improve it or see ways I can learn from events that led me until now.
In my view, being present or living in the now includes taking into account both the past and the future, because the past and the future do exist in the present moment. The present moment is a culmination of the past and the future exists in seed-form in the present moment. To me, living life now means abandoning the story that surrounds the past or limitations that may govern my future, yet I need to completely take in the events that led me up until this point.
In short, this means living my life in a grounded way. I leave the should-have's or reading into anything and take things for what they are. Being grounded means seeing the "facts" or bare truth as they are and not denying them as being instrumental stepping stones that created this present moment. And, yes, we can and should use our minds in the process! It may feel good, at first, to naively focus on what is at hand in our lives right now and ignore all that came before it (or will come after it). Yet, life has a way of showing this naivety to us in a way that is not the most comfortable to encourage us to consider the big picture.