Sunday, October 26, 2008

On Living Fully in the Present Moment

I found when I was younger I would spend a lot of time imagining my future and wishing so hard that the next stage of my life would just come already. When I was in school, I was thinking about my job. When I was on my mission, I would think about "real" life at mission's end. Every so often, I would enjoy the present moment, but the moment would get lost as I began thinking again of what I wanted the future to bring. Now, don't get me wrong. Planning for and anticipating a planned-for future helps a body set goals and fuels proper ambition. I'd have never earned the scholarships or pushed on for the PhD without a healthy sense that there was something just out of sight that I was reaching for. In effect, that is the essence of faith.

However, like every positive character attribute, the faith that motivates us to push onward can become a misplaced anticipation of a bright future that outshines the present. Gradually, those periods of enjoying the present moment have grown, and (at least over the past year) I have found myself appreciating the wisdom that encourages people to live fully within the present moment, to enjoy being here, now. This idea is deeper than it sounds, because I have known a lot of people who, in their desire to take in the present take no thought at all for the future, which pattern of behavior has its own problems. I have occasionally reached an inner place that balances thoughtful plans for the future with a deep appreciation for the beauties of the here and now. When I get there, I find a simple peace that's hard to describe. It's a deep, quiet satisfaction of feeling fully present and where I belong. This last week, Hallie checked out Season 1 of Northern Exposure, and in the third episode, Chris (the DJ) has a brief conversation with Joel (the doctor) about the challenges Joel is experiencing as part of his move to Cicely, Alaska. Chris remarks:

"Well, you know the way I see it, if you're here for four more years or four more weeks, you're here right now. You know, and I think when you're somewhere you ought to be there, and because it's not about how long you stay in a place. It's about what you do while you're there, and when you go is that place any better for you having been there?"

That's the stuff. As often as I can find it within myself to do, I will be here now for however long that here and that now may be.


Kristine said...

I enjoyed reading that. Thanks. One way that I try to be in the present is whenever I engage in conversation. Am I really listening to what that person is saying, or am I thinking about what to say next, or do next, etc... It is a challenge to be "present" enough to hear another person fully.

Aaron said...

I love this line: "the faith that motivates us to push onward can become a misplaced anticipation of a bright future that outshines the present." Well-written. Thanks for the encouragement and inspiration to live TODAY.