I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of time worrying. I worry about a choice I made months or a year ago. I worry about how something is going to turn out five years from now. I worry about something someone else said to me yesterday or what another person will think about what I do tomorrow.
The result of all this worrying is that I spend a lot of time alienated from and outside of the present moment I am living. And it feels bad. I recently realized why.
The other day, I was at the house of some family who live in the countryside. When I am there, I often spend time outside taking pictures. I love doing this for a lot of reasons, but one of the reasons I love it is that I get totally caught up in the moment, looking for all the beautiful, unique, and unusual things in the environment around me that I can capture in photography.
All of the photos in this post are my own.
And I always find them. I am convinced that they are always there waiting for me. It is just that sometimes I notice them, and sometimes I do not.
I realized that this is why it is so painful and uncomfortable when I worry constantly about last year, yesterday, tomorrow, and five years from now. When I spend time in moments other than the one I am in now, I am living in a static moment from the past or an imaginary moment in the future, and I fill it with worry, and so that is all I really find there. To make things worse, I miss the good and beautiful things this moment is pregnant with.
Of course it is normal to think about the past and the future sometimes, and there is nothing wrong about doing this per se. The problem is when we dwell in the past or the future simply for the sake of worrying (which does not change or help anything). The problem is also when we spend so much time out of the present moment that we miss all of the gifts of the present moment.
Of course, sometimes it feels like the present moment has no gifts. Sometimes we are in a moment that feel incredibly painful, frightening, or confusing. Those moments can make us want to self-medicate or escape in some way. But I think those moments may still have gifts to give us.
Perhaps the main gift of moments like that is the realization that we can cultivate deep compassion for ourselves and our suffering in these moments–as well as for the suffering of others.
I remember at one point in my life, I found myself in such a situation that was filled with pain, fear, and confusion. What was especially hard in that moment is that I discovered that I could no longer count on many things I had counted on before.
The gift of that painful moment was realizing I still had myself. I realized I could still make loving and moral choices. I realized I could still go on and do what I knew what was right. I realized I could show kindness and compassion to myself and to other people in similar situations.
It seems pretty clear that life is filled with both beautiful and painful moments. All of these moments potentially have gifts to give us, and the key is to remain present with ourselves in the moments of our lives.
I don’t think this means that we have to worry about whether we are present with each moment of our lives. Rather, it means that we practice regularly checking in with ourselves, noticing what is going on inside of us and outside of us, and accepting what is there for us to learn.
Here is an affirmation for practicing presence: I am here with myself now. I accept the sorrow and beauty of this moment.
Peace to you, Friend.
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