I heard someone say recently that we all carry on two affairs throughout our lifetime:
one is with the past and the other is with the future. Each has its own siren that calls us forward or back in time taking us away from the present. This really made me stop and think. As I reflected on these two affairs in my life I became aware of how often I am pulled from the present moment.
This photograph shows a part of seven miles of old growth trails right out my back fence. I walk them as often as possible. Nature is my spiritual home. Even on these trails I find myself fast-forwarding, planning my next hour, day, week. The natural world gently calls me to listen to the birds singing, to bend down and smell the flowers by the path, to be astounded by the gradation of greens that dot the landscape. Even with all this call to slow down and notice the moment, the future’s call is often louder. Eckhart Tolle says, “Focus on the NOW and tell me what problems you have at this moment.” Stress and gratitude cannot reside in the same moment. Being present takes our minds off the future and/or past.
I don’t spend a lot of time in the past. I am not one to put energy into bitterness and regret. I don’t spend time wishing my past were different. I do spend time reflecting on the impact of my life events to help me understand my behaviors and beliefs of today. My past experiences are my best teachers. Being from a long line of alcoholics I have definitely spent time looking at the impact of alcoholism on my life, and the behaviors I developed to protect myself. These are behaviors that no longer serve me, and hinder my ability to live a full life today. By acknowledging them I have the opportunity to heal through them. My affair with the past is more about learning how my past impacts me now, so I can let go of old stories and make room for the new.
I continue to practice being fully present right here, right now. It doesn’t always work as I have a very active mind filled with chatter. As I quit the chatter, I breathe into the present. Buddha states, “ Enlightenment is not a state we transcend to, but rather it is experiencing full presence and awakening in daily life.”
May we all learn to be more fully present to our lives, opening our hearts to the awe and wonder life offers.