EDITION: August - October 2013

Be here now

Text: Jerry Brownstein
“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past or worry about the future, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.”  -  Buddha
 
These words echo the wisdom of many great teachers throughout history, but what does it mean to live fully in the present moment? It means that your awareness is completely centered on the here and now – not lost in thoughts about the unknown future nor re-living events from the unchanging past. When you live in the present moment you realize that past and future are merely illusions of the mind – they do not exist in reality. This is simple to understand, but not so easy to put into practice, because our minds are always trying to drag us back into the past or get us lost in fantasies of the future. Fortunately, there are two powerful tools that we can use to stay centered in the present moment: Gratitude and Forgiveness. Gratitude keeps your mind from wandering into the future, and forgiveness stops it from dwelling on the past.
 
The practice of gratitude focuses your attention on the good things that are happening in your life Right Now, and this keeps you from looking to the future for your fulfillment. The best way to make this power of gratitude stronger and more effective is to use it as a simple daily practice. As soon as you wake up in the morning think of one thing that you are grateful for and hold that thought for a minute or two before you get out of bed. As your day unfolds continue to find more and more things to be thankful for. You may be grateful for the warmth of the shower, the taste of your coffee, the song of a bird, the color of the sky, the smile of a loved one, or whatever it is that works for you. Once you start to focus on gratitude you will be amazed at how much there is to appreciate in your life. Many things that you previously took for granted will take on new positive meaning, and you will find joy in the simple pleasures. Another good time to practice gratitude is when you go to bed at night. Take a few moments to go over in your mind all that happened during the day, and become aware of how many things you were grateful for. Doing this just before sleep programs your brain to focus on the good in your life, and it helps you to wake up feeling positive, energized and fully present. 
 

 
If it is gratitude that keeps your mind from wandering into the future, then it is forgiveness which frees you from the emotions of the past. Everyone has had painful experiences in their lives that they feel were caused by other people. Holding on to these feelings of hate, anger and resentment makes it impossible to achieve the true happiness that can only be found in the present moment. You may be perfectly justified in being upset about what “they” did to you in the past, but if you continue to dwell on it then you will only be hurting yourself. As Nelson Mandela once said, ”Holding a resentment is like drinking poison and hoping it will kill your enemy.” The good news is that we always have a choice – we can either carry those negative emotions around with us forever or learn how to let them go through the practice of forgiveness. 
 
Remember that forgiving someone does not in any way mean that you condone or approve of their negative behavior. The act of forgiveness is your own personal decision to set yourself free from the pain of the past and it does not excuse the other person from any wrongdoing. A good way to practice forgiveness is by writing a letter to the person you want to forgive. Describe every detail of what happened in the situation and how it caused you emotional pain or distress. Remember that you are NOT going to send this letter, and you are the only one who will ever see it, so feel free to be completely honest. At the end of the letter tell the person that you forgive them … and then throw it into a fire. Writing it all down will bring your negative emotions into the light of awareness, and the fire of forgiveness will put them to rest.

 
Another way that we avoid being in the present moment is by holding on to guilt or anger directed at ourselves for things that we have done in the past. By constantly re-living these events in our minds we keep ourselves anchored in the negativity of regret. There is a simple, yet powerful forgiveness practice for letting go of this type of suffering. Whenever you feel these kind of thoughts coming on, just stop for a moment, find a quiet space within, hold your hands over your abdomen, and say to yourself: “In every situation of my life I have done the very best that I could… with what I knew at the time.” 
Forgiveness helps to release us from the prison of our past… and Gratitude reminds us that the beauty of life resides not in the future, but in the present. Both of these practices help us to allow happiness and well-being into our lives, because those qualities can only be found in the present. In the words of Eckhart Tolle:
 

 
“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.” •