Many great spiritual teachers have often said that one should focus on “living in the moment” – don’t get lost in the past or future, but rather, try to live for the moment. This has been a very difficult thing for me to do, and I imagine it is the same for most people. In fact, I would say that I have often actually considered this idea to be a little too “pollyanna-ish” for me, and have seen it as simply an empty statement that really has no grounding in reality. After all, don’t responsible people always need to plan for the future?
As a rule, I consider myself to be a very responsible person – I am forever worrying about things and proactively planning ahead. It use to (and still does, sometimes) bother me to see people who never appear to take things seriously – who never worry about anything – who are fine to let others do all the worrying. My perspective has been: There are so many things that can can go wrong in life, so shouldn’t we be planning for that?
But….perhaps I have had the wrong perspective…..perhaps I have been taking the wrong approach.
I’ll admit, I still worry way too much, and still take many things way too seriously. It’s hard not to be any other way when you see so much pain and suffering all around. But I think I am gradually starting to realize something important, though (even if I don’t totally have both feet planted there, yet): we never really know what is going to happen beyond the present moment, and it is perhaps an effort in futility to always be planning for an uncertain future, based on the idea that things can and most likely will always go terrribly wrong. In fact, it just may be contributing to the fact that “you get what you wish for” – and if we are assuming the worst can happen, then it probably will. It’s only in the present moment that we actually have control – that control, and ultimately, our power, comes from how we percieve things in the moment we are experiencing, and how we allow it to impact our thoughts, feelings, desires and actions.
We can’t control what others do or say. We also can’t control how others percieve what they see and hear. Those are their moments. All we can control are our own actions resulting from our own perceptions as they unfold moment to moment. It is our actions and reactions that set in motion future possibilities – and it is our collective actions and reactions that set in motion our collective experiences.
I think, perhaps, that this was why I was so distraught over the selection of Trump as President of the US. It was an outcome I had never anticipated or planned for, and I was left completely at a loss for what to do with myself moving forward. When we are used to trying to control all the things around us (which I do constantly), we are not prepared when something else suddenly takes that control from us. But what makes it feel as though something or someone has “taken control”, is actuality the impact of attempting to see ourselves outside of the moment we are in. It’s the fear of the unknown, that has actually taken control – we give up our power to it – we give up our power to fear and it begins to control us and impacts our reactions to it.
I’ve done a lot of soul-searching since Trump took over the Presidency. No one is ever going to change Trump (or his enablers, for that matter). And from my perspective, each day we are presented with more and more horrifying decisions and actions being taken by him or in his name, that I find intolerable and deeply painful and offensive. But the selection of Trump actually reminds me (in great big neon lights!) that I have to give up the need to control outcomes, and, instead, concentrate on what impacts I can have in each and every moment: what is the moment telling me…..what is it reflecting about my own internal thoughts and desires……why is it drawing out emotions that I do not wish to experience or express…..how can I make a significant impact on the moment that is actually presenting itself to me (rather than on trying to impact an unknown future moment)?
The best way to have a long-term impact on outcomes is to always maintain positive aspirations. If we truly believe that ugliness has no place in the world, then we need to spend every moment proving that to be true. Kindness to another is far more powerful than arguing over political viewpoints. I say this, knowing also, that I spend a lot of my time arguing about political viewpoints (I am just as guilty as anyone else!)! But it is becoming clearer to me that we (the collective “we”) appear as though we are living in two different worlds – our experiences are creating very different outcomes, based on what has impacted our perceptions. What we are filtering in and out seems to be completely different. When a person’s experience creates a certain reality for them, there is no argument that can change their mind. The only thing that can change their perspective, is a change in their experience. And individual experiences occur in the moment! What we do in our own “moments” to create a new experience for someone else, is far more important and long-lasting!
I am a political junkie. I really believe it is important to listen to what is going on everyday, as hard as that may be – that it is important to stay fully informed. But it is also very draining and overwhelming. When we are fed with so much bad news each day, we begin to feel the need to withdraw from the present moment as we become more concerned about the future, and we begin to stop believing we can make a difference. I actually think that is the whole point and intent of those who seek control. Distract and wear down good-hearted people, so that they will become more polarized, more negative and more fearful, and they will stop focusing on “the moment” as they try to control future outcomes. And they will be pulled in a thousand different directions.
The way to counter this, I believe, is that we somehow have to get better at having a more significant personal impact on the life experiences of others who’s paths we cross, and we have to trust that the right people (including ourselves) will be in the right places at the right time to impact the things that need their (our) particular skill-set and influence. This is very hard to do, of course, because it involves simply living in the moment, and recognizing that change is long-term. And it involves a level of trust that everything moves in the direction of creating balance.
A really good example of change in action was the “fight” for marriage equality for gay individuals. Forcing changes through arguments or laws had little impact on changing the hearts and minds of people who really believed gays were sinful and marriage was only for opposite gendered couples. But when many people started to really know gay people, when they started to actually experience them in their lives and could see the common ground all people shared when it came to love and companionship, their perspective began to change. And when their perspective was changed through their own personal experience, they were no longer influenced by those in positions of political or religious power who attempted to control their thoughts in this matter. It was the evolution of thought, taking root in personal experience occurring “in the moment”, that changed religious, political and legal frameworks. The “fighting” certainly got the discussion going, but the long-term impact occurred when the fighting stopped, and the experience of kindness in the moment took over. This is what needs to occur for each and every thing that we believe needs to change.
We have to impact, in a positive way, the individual experiences of others, such that we begin to relate better to one another, rather than being in opposition all the time. And this is not easy – particularly when we have strong viewpoints about things! This is very hard work! This is very hard work for me!