Living in the Journey of Today
Finding joy in the present
Today. This is a common word you hear on a daily basis. There is the "Today Show" on NBC. Many read the news in USA Today. Many states have a morning show that includes the word "today". In spite of our infatuation with 'today', we often live outside of today. Many of us live in the past, while others focus on the future. Both can rob us of the joy of the present. Developing a healthy perspective of the present can give us joy as we journey through this life.
The thieves that rob us of the present
1. The past
The past robs so many. It keeps us from being able to truly let go and enjoy where we are now. Obviously many are hung up on past failures. Hey, what's done is done. You cannot go back and undo it. You may need to repair relationships that are broken or make amends in some way. If so, do so as soon as possible. But you still have to let go of the past. We all make mistakes- some small and some not so small. If you make an attempt to repair damage you have done, and the other person does not respond, then you have done what you can. You must move on. This life is too short to live it in misery. There is too much good to get out of life to be hung up on what you cannot change. You may have made some bad choices in the past, but you can't change that now, so learn the lessons from those choices and return to the present.
Some do not live in past mistakes. Instead, they live in past victories. Some are so focused on great accomplishments from long ago, that they aren't doing any good now. I have met many homeless on the streets of my city who tell of great things they did long ago. I'm glad that they have those good memories, but what use it to them now? As Bruce Springsteen sings, many of us live in the glory days of the past.
Letting go of the past can be very difficult, but if you want to enjoy the life you've been given, you have no choice but to put the past in the past.
2. The future
The future robs most of us of the joy of the present. We simply cannot tell what will happen in our future in the next 10 minutes, let alone tomorrow, next week or next year. It is no use worrying about what you can't control. What will happen in the future is going to happen and you can't change that. Many of us avoid situations or places in order to try to control the future. Some avoid busy freeways to avoid a bad accident, not thinking that many fatal car accidents happen on two lane rural roads with only two cars on it. Some avoid elevators and take the stairs to avoid what could happen in the elevator, not realizing that many people each year break bones from falling on the stairs. We cannot live our lives in dread of what might be. Chances are good that it won't happen, and if it does you will get through it.
With this in mind, let me say that this does not mean in any way that we shouldn't prepare for the future. We should still make plans, and live our lives in view of the ultimate future of life after death, but we cannot let it rob us of the journey God has given us in today.
3. The present
This may seem odd, but the present can rob us in the journey of today. We can get so caught up in schedules, meetings, and the crush of the present that we totally overlook what is going on around us. We can overlook the people around us. Phil Collins, in his song "Another Day in Paradise", describes a man who walks past a homeless woman. She asks for help, and in the business of his life, just walks right on by. That man missed an opportunity to help a fellow human in need. People all around us are hurting. Many are in desperation. Some just need a friendly greeting to get through the moment. Don't let the chaos of the moment steal the joy you can have now.
We can also overlook our surroundings. There is nature all around us. Even if you live in the inner city, there is still remnants of nature- the tree in the neighbor's yard, or children happily playing in the park. We need to open our eyes and see what is around us to enjoy. The other day I was stuck in traffic, and developing a headache from it. That was until I looked up and noticed the snow capped peaks of the Cascade Mountains in the distance. My perspective immediately changed, and I was able to get back on the journey of the present.
Getting back to the journey of life
Living the daily journey of life is not automatic. There are so many distractions to pull us off the path. Here are a few suggestions to help you get back to the reality of the present.
1. Let go of the past
The past is such a slave master. It chains us down and steals the life out of us. If you have made mistakes which you are having a hard time letting go of, keep in mind that even those who seem to have their act together have skeletons hanging in their closet. Be honest and transparent about what you have done with those you need to reconcile with, then move on to the present. If you have done some amazing things in the past, great! But you must move on, as those accomplishments mean little now. Michael Jordan was a great basketball player. He accomplished so much, but that means little to the kids on the playgrounds today. Now it is Kobe, Shaq and others that they imitate.
2. Plan for the future while enjoying the present
Again, let me say that you cannot control the future. Only God can do that. Plan for the future, but give your future to Him and enjoy the present that He has given you. You may have pain and heartbreak in your present, but make the most of it and don't allow bitterness to set in. Some of the happiest people I know have endured a lot of pain in their life. Their secret? They live in the now.
3. Let go of chaos
If your life is a series of dramas, then some things have to go bye bye. Make priorities, then live by those priorities. Don't let the unnecessary stuff keep you from living and loving where you are. Our family had a person who lived on the streets living with us for a while. Their life was one drama after another. We taught them how to live with peace and calm, rather than constant chaos. Today, they are so pleasant to be around, and their life is so much more productive. In our attempt to be productive, we often get less accomplished. We all know the person who speeds down the road passing everyone, only to be stuck at the same red light. They made no progress in traffic. Letting go of chaos, not rushing to the next meeting, and just living in the flow of life will make your life so much more enjoyable and meaningful.
4. Live within the rythym of life
Our lives have a certain rythym to them. Their is a natural flow to our days. Sometimes we can sense that we are out of the flow, as we find ourselves consistently behind all day. To force the flow of life only adds stress, and even causes physical, mental, and emotional problems. Pay attention to the rythym around you, and you will find yourself much more relaxed. Escaping to a far away place is nice, but you can let go of stress where you are.
As I close, I want to remind you that living in the moment is not automatic. You will have to intentionally focus on living in the present. As you get in the habit of it, it becomes easier; however, there will always be a million things screaming for your attention. If you decide to live in the journey of today, you will dicover a place of serenity and wholeness.