For the past 15 years or so I have been reading things that refer to living fully in the present moment. I love Sarah Ban Breathnach’s “A Simple Abundance” and a lot of other self-help writers who helped open me up to that principle. It’s brought me a lot of peace and joy.
I’ve always thought that it meant living more fully, or more meaningfully, instead of having my thoughts scattered and distracted. I’ve had moments, sometimes even hours where I kind of step back from the experience I’m having and just fully feel the joy of it at a family gathering or just alone in my car with my thoughts, and especially while meditating and praying.
But just recently I have learned it in a new and even more meaningful way. It has helped me in my efforts to give up codependent and enabling behaviors in the relationships with those I love who struggle with addiction.
It is only in the present moment that we have any control or influence at all. If we are living in the past, beating ourselves up for mistakes we’ve made, things we did or didn’t do, or even sins, it just tears us down and makes us feel bad about ourselves. It also denies the power of the atonement which has already taken care of the past, as long as we have done our part. The atonement covers not only our sins, but our weaknesses, the things we hadn’t yet learned that we wish we had.
We can’t change the past, so we have no influence or control there. In fact, living in the past controls us and our ability to move forward in our lives. We’re stuck there.
The same is true of living in the future. If we are always living in the future, we’ll only be happy “when an addict is sober” or “when we finally have enough money”. And if we fill the present moment with what we want in the future we miss the present moment altogether. It’s not that we can’t have hopes and dreams, or remember our loved ones in our prayers. But that is part of the present moment work. When we worry about what will or won’t happen with a loved one, or try to intercede on their agency for our own desired result, the result is usually ineffective if not damaging. To live in the future is an absence of faith. And with no influence, and no faith, what can we ever hope to accomplish?
When, however, we choose to live fully present in the moment, we have influence. We can choose to pray, express our will as well as our willingness to surrender to God’s will. We can choose well-thought out actions (and spiritual confirmations of those actions) as opposed to reactive actions. It is in the present moment that we experience joy, and connection, and peace. We are not existing in the past or the future when we feel those things. But if our minds are in the past or the future we will indeed miss them.
So, in summary: to live in the past is to deny the power of the atonement and stop progressing. To live in the future is to deny the power of faith and the plan of a loving Heavenly Father for yourself and your loved ones. To live fully present in the moment is to seek to be worthy of inspiration, of opportunities to be God’s influence in your loved ones lives. It is there that we choose the next step, which moves us toward our dreams and goals, but only brings us to the present moment of each step that follows. That’s where the power is. Where the hope is. Where the healing is. Where the relationships can grow and thrive. It’s where God resides and we can be right there with Him.