If you have watched Jack Black’s “Kung Fu Panda”, you might remember hearing the old turtle, “Master Oogway”, comfort Po’s anxiety when he said, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.” If not fully contemplated and understood, the profound wisdom of this quote is easily overlooked or dismissed.
So much of our regrets, angers, anxieties or worries are based on events that have already happened, or not yet happened. That leaves them as either past “has happened”, or future “might happen”. We rarely stop to take note of how much of our vitality is wasted on these past events or future possibilities. While the past does have its lessons and memories to cherish, and the future its preparations to plan for, neither of them should be allowed to ruin the joy and experience of each passing moment.
The past is valuable insofar as it increases the joy and ability to live better in the current moment. If we regret the outcome of a past event, it is likely because we still haven’t extracted the wisdom from it to live with different resolve today. Instead of holding onto regret, we need to fully realize the lesson of that event and then transform regret into gratitude by learning a better way to handle that situation going forward, should the opportunity arise for a “redo”. That realization will only take place today and never tomorrow. Once realized, move on and let it go.
If anger is still gripping you from some past event, it’s probably time to evaluate whether that anger is serving or hurting you and then see if it can be let go. As an Eastern proverb goes, “Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” Another excellent observation of anger comes from the meridian of time Roman, and friend of Gaius Julius Caeser, Mark Antony: “Consider how much more you often suffer from your anger and grief, than from those very things for which you are angry and grieved.” Anger is an instinctive emotion that serves during the “fight or flight” stage of any perceived threat. The problem comes from not releasing that energy once we are no longer threatened. Once you’ve escaped or resolved the perceived threat, let the anger go.
The past can teach us a lot of things, as well as bring back some of the joy of past relationships or events. However, it doesn’t do well to dwell on it if it is keeping us from living fully today.
The future is something so illusive that it can be difficult to predict, even when based on the patterns of yesterday. We all think about the future for various reasons. Perhaps more so than is helpful when it comes to living fully today. The future can stir up all sorts of emotions from hope, despair, anxiety, anticipation, worry, and many, many more. When we look forward to a future event, we often feel excited or hopeful. When we dread a future event, we may feel anxiety or fear. Whether you perceive either of these seemingly opposite emotional sensations as positive or negative, they can both be debilitating when it comes to living fully today. Whether it is excitement, fear or anything in between that you feel towards some future event, the potential exists for those emotions to prevent you from realizing what you are living and experiencing today by not being present enough to enjoy whatever it is you’re doing right now. The future should only occupy our awareness so long as what we’re doing right now is preparatory for the future we want to create. That can be anything from buying groceries for the coming week, making reservations for a trip to Yellowstone or buying tickets for the Lady Gaga tour in 2011. Notating those events in a calendar will help you be prepared and continue preparations when those dates become today. However, if you’re not in a position to do anything in this moment to plan or prepare for that future possibility, put it out of your mind and focus on enjoying whatever it is that is needing your attention and awareness right now. Another way future events can ruin the current moment is when we place excessive emotional stock in a future event but then that future event either never takes place or turns out to be a dud, we are left in a mostly depressed, angry and ruined state.
While we are stuck in the past or looking for salvation in the future, we are likely creating a mini hell for ourselves today. This is because our preoccupation with the past or future is keeping us from living or accepting today. This is why we love weekends and loath Mondays. Our anticipation for the coming weekend, or longing for the past weekend is often the very thing which is making weekdays, particularly Monday, when the past weekend is so fresh in our memories, unbearable or mundane. Except for those mostly rare times when remembering the past or preparing for the future is enhancing the current moment, they should be left in their respective time frames.
To give some perspective to this concept, please consider the following: Nothing that has ever happened in the history of the universe has ever happened outside of this moment. Nothing ever happened in the past and nothing ever happens in the future. When ever anything transpires, it does so right now. Each passing moment, right now, is the only position of power. Thus when we focus on living each day to the fullest, doing those things that need to be done and indulging in those things that we want to do, we are in the best position to guide and live our lives in whatever way pleases us most, without regrets, and without anxiety. This realization can identify the ills of procrastination in a much brighter light. Regretting not doing something yesterday or putting it off until tomorrow will not get it done. Today is the only day that you will ever live your life in. Realize it and gain your power in the present, this moment, right now. What are you waiting for? You start living by doing so today.