Live in the Present Moment I was in the U.S. Army in Frankfurt, Germany, managing editor of the 3rd Armored Division’s weekly newspaper. My former roommate in a dorm at Michigan State University was on a vacation in Europe and came to see me. We hadn’t seen each other in more than two years, but after only a few minutes of greeting each other, he sat at our table with maps, travel folders, and a notebook, planning what cities and countries he was going to in the next few days. I thought what a shame. He was living in the future and cared nothing at all about the present. He might as well have been back in the United States, at home watching television. He hadn’t even toured Frankfurt and I would loved to have shown him the city and nearby Roman castle and taken him to dinner at my favorite Old World restaurant, but he was in a hurry to get back to his hotel and get ready for tomorrow. Our reunion was a very short time in the present for him, as he was totally preoccupied with his future. I never saw him again and that final visit was more than forty years ago. The American writer and naturalist Henry David Thoreau (Walden) (1817-1862) wrote: “You can never ignore the future, because it is the place that we are all heading, but the point is… don’t live your life constantly looking forward and ignoring the present. You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. There is no other life but this.” Buddha said, “The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” Jesus said it best: “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have its own anxieties. Sufficient for today is its own troubles.” Living in the present is a very important part of learning to dance on the meat counter. Herbie says, “Living in the present to me is enjoying every second we have. It’s about love and peace and how we learn to forgive. “When I live in the now I totally get freed up of any distractions and can become anything I want to be. This is how I think right before preaching or a gathering or praying for someone real sick. I always enter into the now at those times, but I’m also behind the cloud of glory. Living in the present is like an instant fog cleaner for the brain.” Since I’m still learning to live in the present myself, I surfed the web looking for ways to do that. Joshua Becker says, “Choosing to live in the past or the future not only robs you of enjoyment today, it robs you of truly living. The only important moment is the present moment.” With that goal in mind, Becker suggests considering his list of steps to start living your life in the present. I’ve modified the list, but it’s basically his, and Herbie and I thank him for it: 1. Smile. Each day is full of endless possibilities. Start it with a smile. You are in control of your attitude every morning. Keep it optimistic and expectant. 2. Fully appreciate the moments of today. Soak in as much of today as you possibly can – the sights, sounds, smells, emotions, the triumph and the sorrow. 3. Forgive past hurts. If you are harboring resentment towards another person because of past hurts, choose to forgive and move on. 4. Love your job. If you just “survive” the work week constantly waiting for the next weekend to get there, you are wasting 71 per cent of your life (5 out of 7 days). There are two solutions: 1) find a new job that you actually enjoy, or 2) find something that you appreciate about your current occupation and focus on that rather than the negatives. 5. Dream about the future, but work hard today. Set goals and plans for the future, but working hard today is always the first step towards realizing your dreams tomorrow. But don’t allow dreaming about tomorrow to replace living in today. 6. Don’t dwell on past accomplishment. If you are still thinking about what you did yesterday, you won’t have done much today. 7. Stop worrying. You can’t fully appreciate today if you worry too much about tomorrow. What does it mean to live fully in the present moment? It means that your awareness is completely centered on the here and now. You are not worrying about the future or thinking about the past. When you live in the present, you are living where life is happening. The past and future are illusions, they don’t exist. Becker echoes TMS philosophy although he doesn’t mention it specifically when he says, “Not only will living in the present have a dramatic effect on your emotional well-being, but it can also impact your physical health. It’s long been known that the amount of mental stress you carry can have a detrimental impact on your health. “If you’re living in the present, you’re living in acceptance. You’re accepting life as it is now, not as how you wish it would have been. When you’re living in acceptance, you realize everything is complete as it is. You can forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made, and you can have peace in your heart knowing that everything that should happen will. “If you’re living in the past, you can’t do anything about it, it’s gone. If you’re worrying about the future, you’re living somewhere that doesn’t exist. It hasn’t happened yet. If you want to change your life, the only place you can do it is in the present. But first you need to accept life as it is. When it comes down to it, your mind is the only thing keeping you from living in the present.” Look at Joshua Becker’s web site for more of his thoughts on living in the present and living a more simple life he calls “minimalistic.” How do we live in the present moment? Here are a few examples. They may sound simple and basic, but they do work: When washing the dishes, the old way by hand not in a dish washing machine, say to yourself,. “This is me washing dishes.” Repeat it calmly, focusing on the very act of hand-washing the dishes. Pay attention to the steps involved, the sound and feel of warm water running in the sink and down the dish, the smell of the soap, etc. As you repeat to yourself, “This is me doing (something),” you begin to feel relaxed. Other concerns loose importance. You’re ordering your mind to actively focus on what you are doing, and only that. Then do the same with the next thing you might be doing. Going upstairs to the bedroom, tell yourself what you are doing. “This is me, walking upstairs.” Playing with a child by tossing a ball: “This is me playing with Betsy. I’m tossing a ball to her.” Playing with a dog by tossing a Frisbee in the back yard: “This is me playing with Annie. I’m tossing a Frisbee to her and she’s catching and returning it for me to toss again. The sunshine feels good. The gentle breeze feels good.” When brushing your teeth, say “This is me brushing my teeth. I am calm and experiencing the present. I feel good and relaxed.” After a few minutes of keeping focused and repeating to yourself what you are doing, you will experience a feeling of well-being and peace. Awareness of the immediate reality increases. No room is left for thoughts about anything but the present. Eckhart Tolle has an excellent book that explains the importance of living in the present and how to do it: Practicing the Power of Now. Another is Richard Templar’s The Rules of Life. He suggests “Live here, live now, live in this moment.” I found more good advice on how to live in the present from Remez Sasson, author and founder of the web site and blog SuccessConsciousness.com. Sasson says, “Living in the present means focusing on what is happening right now, enjoying it, and making the most of it. Wake up to the present moment and live in it. By being aware of your thoughts and feelings, it becomes easier to be a little more detached. When you are detached you become able to choose how to react to people, events and circumstances, which can save yourself a lot of inconvenience, trouble and embarrassment.” I add, worries and pain. Many famous people have said many helpful thoughts on living in the present, such as, “Life gives you plenty of time to do whatever you want to do, if you stay in the present moment.” – Deepak Chopra (1946- ) Indian-American physician, holistic health advocate. “With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American poet, essayist, transcendentalist leader. “You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leaves your arms too full to embrace the present.” – Jan Glidewell (dates unknown) American columnist. “It’s but little good you’ll do a-watering last year’s crops.” – George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) (1819-1880) British novelist. “The first recipe for happiness is: Avoid too lengthy meditation on the past.” -- André Maurois (1885-1967) French author. “We seem to be going through a period of nostalgia, and everyone seems to think yesterday was better than today. I don't think it was, and I would advise you not to wait ten years before admitting today was great. If you're hung up on nostalgia, pretend today is yesterday and just go out and have one hell of a time.” -- Art Buchwald (1925-2007) American humorist, columnist. “Don't let yesterday use up too much of today.” -- Cherokee Indian Proverb “Living the past is a dull and lonely business; looking back strains the neck muscles, causing you to bump into people not going your way.” -- Edna Ferber (1885-1968) American novelist, playwright. “In the carriages of the past you can't go anywhere.” -- Maxim Gorky (1868-1936) Russian author, political activist. “Waste not fresh tears over old griefs.” – Euripides (484-406 BC) Greek playwright. “The past is a guidepost, not a hitching post.” -- L. Thomas Holdcroft (1745-1809) English essayist. “When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.” -- Alexander Graham Bell (Scottish-American scientist, inventor (the telephone). “We can easily manage if we will only take, each day, the burden appointed to it. But the load will be too heavy for us if we carry yesterday's burden over again today, and then add the burden of the morrow before we are required to bear it.” -- John Newton (1725-1807) British sailor, clergyman, hymn writer (“Amazing Grace”). “Nothing is worth more than this day.” -- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) German philosopher, poet, playwright. “The living moment is everything.” -- D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930) British author. “Why not just live in the moment, especially if it has a good beat?” -- Goldie Hawn (1945- ), American actress. “Rejoice in the things that are present; all else is beyond thee.” – Michel Montaigne (1533-1592), French essayist. “Nothing ever gets anywhere. The earth keeps turning round and gets nowhere. The moment is the only thing that counts.” -- Jean Cocteau (1889-1963) French poet, novelist, playwright. “Eternity is not something that begins after you are dead. It is going on all the time.” -- Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935) American sociologist, novelist. “Transformation can only take place immediately; the revolution is now, not tomorrow.” -- Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986) Indian writer, spiritual and philosophical lecturer. “It is only possible to live happily-ever-after on a day-to-day basis.” -- Margaret Bonnano (1950- ) American author. “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. And today? Today is a gift. That's why we call it the present.” --- Babatunde Olatunji (Nigerian educator, social activist, drummer). “Not the power to remember, but its very opposite, the power to forget, is a necessary condition for our existence.” -- Sholem Asch (1880-1957) Polish-born American Yiddish novelist, playwright. “Children have neither past nor future; they enjoy the present, which very few of us do.” -- Jean de la Bruyere (1645-1696) French philosopher. “Dogs only live in the now. Unless their nose tells them where they buried a bone in the back yard. “– Walter Oleksy (1930- ) American dog walker, author. “Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness.” -- James Thurber (1894-1961) American author, cartoonist, humorist. “We crucify ourselves between two thieves: regret for yesterday and fear of tomorrow.” -- Fulton Oursler (1893-1952) American journalist, author (The Greatest Story Ever Told). “Seize from every moment its unique novelty, and do not prepare your joys.” -- André Gide (1869-1951) French author. “We know nothing of tomorrow; our business is to be good and happy today.” -- Sydney Smith (1771-1845) British wit, philosopher, Anglican clergyman. “When I am anxious it is because I am living in the future. When I am depressed it is because I am living in the past.” -- Author Unknown “The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness.” -- Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) American psychologist. “I never think of the future. It comes soon enough.” -- Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German theoretical physicist. “We steal if we touch tomorrow. It is God's.” -- Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) American social reformer, abolitionist, Congregationalist clergyman. “The future is an opaque mirror. Anyone who tries to look into it sees nothing but the dim outlines of an old and worried face.” -- Jim Bishop (1907-1987) American journalist, novelist. “I got the blues thinking of the future, so I left off and made some marmalade. It's amazing how it cheers one up to shred oranges and scrub the floor.” -- D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930) British novelist. “One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon - instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.” -- Dale Carnegie (1888-1955) American writer, lecturer on self-improvement. “God made the world round so we would never be able to see too far down the road.” -- Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) (1885-1962) Danish author. “If you wait for tomorrow, tomorrow comes. If you don't wait for tomorrow, tomorrow comes.” -- Senegalese Proverb “The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time.” -- Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) 16th President of the United States. Buddha’s poem is about the philosophy of living in the present: Don't chase after the past, Don't seek the future; The past is gone, The future hasn't come. But see clearly on the spot The object which is now, While finding and living in A still, unmoving state of mind. And, in closing, I am going to walk my dog. Now, in the present. Not an hour from now. Annie would not like that. Neither would I. It’s one of my favorite things to do in the present. I see many people talking on their cell phone or looking at their i-Pad or some such gadget while walking their dog. They are missing being with their dog and, and as their dog sniffs for its pleasures, I smell the aromas of the day, look at the trees in their seasonal glory, and enjoy our journey together in the sun, or the rain or snow.