Life, it seems, is a journey. As we progress, we can look behind and see the road we have traveled, and ahead we see where we intend to go. We make plans based on where we see ourselves in the future.
However, we also find we worry about that future. How will we get there? What could go wrong? That mistake I made last week, will that prevent me from getting there? We worry about what has been and what may be. But we often fail to realize that it is only now that we can actually do anything about the future, and not anything at all about the past. The present moment, this is the time we can act.
In Buddhist psychology, they say “the past is a memory, the future a fantasy”. This is very true. Of course, we cannot ignore any consequences of what has been before, but we cannot go back and change them. If we need to rectify a mistake, then this moment, or the one that follows, this is when we can make reparation.
In physics there is the concept of the “arrow of time”, and it is well known that in the normal, physical world (ignoring the theoretical possibilities of Hawking and other physicists). But for the purposes of action, our temporal existence in many ways is a fabrication. We worry about what has been and worry about what has not. “Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but you don’t go anywhere” (a quote attributed to at least three different people!).
While it is easy to say and considerably harder to do, to give ourselves peace we need to try to just think of the here and now, and take the positive action that we can now rather than worry about what you cannot change, either in history or the future. Simply by focussing on what we can do now, we can reduce the overwhelming scale of some of the things we must do. When we get to the next step, we can then take that action. Our whole lives when we look back at it is a sequence of decisions and actions taken one step at a time, not four at a time.
“You don’t have to see the whole staircase to take the first step” – Martin Luther King Jr.
Life is for living.