June 18 – Living in the Present

Living in the present is one of the most beautiful gifts in this life. To be present and mindful has been the teaching of every great monk or religious leader for thousands of years. When we think only of the past and the future, we miss the beauty of what’s happening right now in front of us. The present is the only time that truly exists for us. We will never get this moment back. Shouldn’t we learn to embrace and enjoy it? So often I look back on my life and long for the past, but it makes me sad, because I realize that one day I will look back on this moment I’m living in yet failing to enjoy, and I will miss it as well. It’s far better to simply live our lives, to embrace what we have today before it is gone tomorrow, for we can never get it back. It’s the bittersweet melancholic beauty of life. 

waterfalls during sunset

On the topic of living in the present, Anne Wilson Schaef writes:

“Imagine starting each day fresh with no ‘shadows of yesterdays of clouds of tomorrow.’ In our more negative, cynical moods, we hear such an idea and we scoff, impossible! It is not possible to let go of the past and have no concern for the future. Yet this is what every great spiritual teacher on the planet has taught in one way or another. In fact, the greatest gift our spiritual teachers have given us has often been to show us how to live in the present, how to simply be totally present to the moment.

How often we miss our life by focusing on the past or yearning for the future. We miss the look in our children’s eyes today, because we are thinking about how to get them to the dentist tomorrow. We miss the interesting idea that has just now come across our desk, because we are worrying about what we said in the meeting yesterday. Stop—relax—be here!”

I love the saying, “When we stand with one foot in the future and one foot in the past, we are pissing on the present.” It’s so true. We squander away the present moment with our worry, fear, doubt, and longing for the future as well as the past. What will stressing over the past change? We can’t alter that which has already happened. What will worrying over the future solve? I remember when my therapist asked me to analyze why it is I worry. What do I accomplish? I laughed when I found myself saying out loud, “It prepares me for the worst.” When has worrying ever prepared me for anything? Sometimes we can’t imagine the worst, and other times, events turn out far better than we might have thought. Either way, our worry will not change the outcome. It just ruins our present moment. When we stop planning for the future, we free our minds to actually do what we want. When we stop concerning ourselves with what’s to come, or what has come to pass, we can enjoy what we have today.

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