How much time have you spent either thinking about the past, or planning for the future? Most of us spend our lives immersed in one or the other, some of us flip back and forth … but how many of us actually live IN the present moment?
I have to admit, living in the present moment is a concept that was totally alien to me until I read Eckhart Tolle’s amazing book, “The Power of Now”. Either I spent so much time ruminating about the past – wondering WHAT I could have done to make a situation turn out the way I wanted, wondering WHY it didn’t work out the way I wanted, and remembering how awful it felt WHEN it didn’t work out the way I wanted. Or, I would focus on the future. I would think things like: When I lose weight, my life will be the way I want it to be. Or, When I meet the right guy, I will finally be happy and get the love I want. I would spend my time fixated on how to make those things happen, always chasing the finish line, usually before I even crossed it.
Living in the past or the future is impossible, because neither is a reality. The past is already gone. Whatever happened there is done and cannot be changed. The future is just as unreal, because it hasn’t arrived yet. Doesn’t it make sense to live in the present, when you actually have awareness and control over your life? (Control in the sense that you have control over your PERCEPTION of the moment. We can't always control WHAT happens to us, but we have total control over how we RESPOND to what happens to us.)
It is definitely an acquired skill, living in the present. Usually, we convince ourselves that the present isn’t where we want to be. We’re not satisfied with the way things are. We want to lose weight, be with the right partner, have the right job, live in our perfect dream house. But if we would just take the time to quiet our minds, and breathe, and appreciate … our perspective changes. You can only live fully when you live in the present. You start to realize that every moment in your life has led you to where you are RIGHT NOW. As one of my favourite teachers, Dr. David Viscott once said, You are the sum total of everything that has happened in your life, up to this moment. Appreciate it. Breathe it in. Don’t push it out the door to hurry it along. LIVE it.
When you start divvying up your attention to the past or the future, you are literally “not there”. You cannot give your full attention to possible graces and opportunities in your life until you can fully recognize them. And you cannot fully recognize them unless you are fully present, in the present moment.
One of my favourite ways to experience the present moment is to go walking in my favourite park. Weather permitting, I go walking there every day, and when I’m there, amid all the nature and solitude, I try to feel and notice everything. The birds, the squirrels, and the flowers aren’t preoccupied with the past or the future. Animals are blessed without a subconscious mind to cloud or muddy their awareness. They just LIVE, not stressed or saddened by the past, or fearful or hopeful of the future.
Take some time to practice appreciating as many moments as you can. The more you practice, the easier it gets. When you’re alone, quiet your mind, and pay attention to what your senses are telling you. When your mind starts poking in and distracting you, pulling you away, try to pull it back and steady it.