11 December 2016

This Day, This Moment

We've all heard and read about how today is the only day that we have, how this moment is all that we truly have, how yesterday and tomorrow really don't matter and that we must focus on living in this present moment if we're truly to be able to live happily.  While this sounds like a great philosophy, it raises many questions that seem to contradict it:  what about planning for tomorrow?  What about the lessons that we learned last week?  Does this mean that we shouldn't have the memories of the beautiful times in our past?  If we do truly live in this moment, doesn't that leave us open to many problems that planning and remembering could help us to overcome?

Well, yes and no.  Basically, the focus of this philosophy is on those things over which we have control, and this moment and its decisions and actions are the only things that we actually can control.  If I insulted someone yesterday, I no longer have control over that action--it's over and done with.  However, I do have control over today--my choices are mine.  Do I mope around, angry at myself for my insensitivity, beating myself up emotionally and calling myself horrible names?  Each moment that I continue in such behavior, I'm making a choice to beat myself up and not to pursue an alternative action such as apologizing for my behavior and allowing myself to continue with my life.

Perhaps my action occurred over a long period of time when I was thoughtless or harmful to others.  If that's true, acting ashamed and treating myself badly today isn't going to change anything that I did, but it will assure that I don't contribute anything positive to the world.  Allowing myself to go on and act differently right now will add a positive force to the world, a positive influence for many people to see.  Ebeneezer Scrooge is a wonderful example of this--once he found his change of heart, he was immediately happy and joyful, and he helped many people because of it.  He didn't waste time on regret, even though many of us would like to see such a person suffer to "pay for" the pain he's caused.  Their suffering, though, contributes nothing to the world except for giving us a warped sense of justice.  When those people change their ways and contribute positively to the world, then there's a change worth seeing.

Living for today also doesn't preclude planning for the future.  I know I have to go to work tomorrow, so one of the decisions I make today is to go to bed at a decent hour.  I know that my stepkids will be in college in a couple of years (one already is), so I decide today not to buy certain things, and to put money away to make the sting of helping to pay for college less painful.  I know that I'll probably be going into the same stores that I'm going into today, so I decide to be courteous and polite (and enough of this behavior turns it into a habit).  I know that when someone asks me tomorrow what I did today, I don't want to have to hide something that I'll be ashamed to admit, so I make the decisions today that will make it unnecessary for me to hide anything.

Besides, I have no control over what tomorrow brings.  How many times have we said no to some possibility because we have to do something else tomorrow, only to find that the something else never happens?  Tomorrow may bring a snowstorm or a bright sunny day that precludes many possibilities.  How many people didn't invest money anywhere except the stock market in the late 90's, sure that the market would continue to bring huge returns?  The decisions they made in the 90's to put their money in just one investment (stocks) brought about huge financial losses during our recession of ten years ago.  If I had ten thousand dollars to invest today (and I don't!), I would keep in mind that I can't predict or control what tomorrow will bring, so I'd invest the money in several different areas to offset possible disasters.

This moment offers you many riches.  Look around yourself, starting with the miracle of the computer that sits before you.  Think of the amount of information and processing power that the machine holds!  Look out a window at the buildings that we've built, the trees that are so beautiful and that provide oxygen for us to breathe, the flowers and the plants and the animals and insects.  Think of the people in your life, and the wonders that they are.

If you're carrying resentment or anger or cynicism, remember that it's your choice to do so--you can choose at this moment to let go of those feelings that are causes of stress and unease.  Or you can choose to hold on to them, guaranteeing yourself that you'll feel bad in this moment and in the coming moments.

The only actions or decisions that we have control over are those of this moment.  We can choose to appreciate and admire with a sense of wonder, or we can choose to take for granted and not appreciate with a sense of ungratefulness.  The important thing to keep in mind is that what we do in this moment is our choice, and what we choose to do now will leave a definite mark on our future moments.

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