He said, ‘There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow. So, today is the right day to love, believe, do, and mostly, to live (His Holiness, the Dalai Lama).
All things change, and we don’t ever really know in which direction they’ll change until it happens.
I initially began to tune into Buddhist practices because I was hoping to find some ways to manage anxiety and depression. I found that the practice of meditation and tuning as exclusively as possible into each moment as it happened had this beautiful, peaceful potency that helped free me up to make the best of what was available to me in each moment: no more, and no less.
As I practiced this, I slowly became better at dealing with what was in front of me at any given time, without being subjected to the distress and paralysis of constantly fumbling with my past to try to find the right way to look at it. This was very profound for me, as I sought to address the emotional problems that haunted me as a result of the abuse and neglect I faced as a child and young person.
Similarly, this act of tuning into each moment helped me to feel less afraid of what my future might hold: whether I could protect myself from suffering in the future.
Gradually I realised that in each moment all I had to do was make a small choice about what to do at that time. Small choices of compassion, or self-nourishment, or diligence in each moment felt less overwhelming and somehow became a lot more potent. When I am able to be present and compassionate in more moments, I protect myself from suffering in the future. By choosing small kindnesses, small contributions of effort in short moments, I am able to be more consistent and more potent than I ever was when I was trying to predict every moment and effort in my future. I used to exhaust myself before I had even started, by thinking about everything I would need to do instead of the first small part that I needed to master in that moment.
The freedom of living in each present as it comes to us also allows us to recover more quickly when things don’t go our way. It helps us to avoid all kinds of shortcomings that bring suffering to ourselves and others:
- We avoid arrogance by acting in the present rather than calculating our worth based on the past, or on what we perceive our future capacities will be;
- We avoid dishonesty by acting in the present rather than fearing the consequences of living truthfully in the present moment;
- We avoid unkindness by seeing the present worth/strengths/needs of other beings;
- We avoid laziness and procrastination by not assuming that we will have time in the future to do what we can do now.
These are very broad examples that only cover a few concepts, but that’s what I’ve got time to write today.
What will you do now? What is this moment’s best application, for you? Do you need to rest? To meditate? To express kindness? To eat? To clean? To write? To listen? To cry? To travel? Use this moment well and you will have done your best to protect yourself from future suffering, and in doing so, you will have your best possible chance at creating future conditions that increase your opportunities for a happy and potent life.