When the phone rang one sizzling summer day about three years ago, I answered it only to hear the quivering voice of my dear friend on the other end. Barely able to speak, she told me she had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. We cried, talked about treatment options, and cried a little more. It’s an understatement to say it was a challenging time for my friend, but in the midst of it all, she managed to seize a quiet moment to ask why this had happened to her. She wasn’t asking other people their opinions, though; she was asking this of herself, her true self, her soul.
In the deep reflection of her life and how she lived it, my friend became aware of something that drastically changed her perception. She concluded that the cancer came mainly from feeling stressed a lot about the past and worrying about the future. Specifically, she spent a lot of time regurgitating prior events where she thought she had made critical mistakes. She carried the pain and disappointment of these events with her and revisited them often. She didn’t have much peace, to say the least. She also feared the future. She worried about things not going well in her job, whether her son would continue eating junk food as an adult developing health complications and how long it would take for her to find love again, if ever. She said she believed she had been a bad mother, sister, daughter, and friend. She told me all of this without reservation, with profound conviction and, most of all, with calm acceptance. Then she asked me to help her. She wondered how could she take this revelation and use it to change her life? My answer to her was to practice living in the Present Moment.
What If You Lived Fully in the Reality of the Present Moment?
There are three distinct moments available to us here on Earth: the Past, the Present, and the Future. Each one occupies our minds at some point throughout each day, but one rarely sees much face time compared to the other two. Can you guess which one that is? If you said the Present Moment, you are correct. And what is the Present Moment? The Present Moment is NOW. It is the only moment where reality truly exists. The Present Moment is the only moment where we can do something about anything. It is where we affect change, where we experience life, and where we find peace and health. It is the only moment where we breathe in and out. We repeat this over and over and create each moment of our reality with each breath.
By contrast, the Past and the Future are illusions. This is because the past is over and the future isn’t here yet, so this makes them both one thing — just thoughts. Thoughts about an event that has concluded or about one that hasn’t occurred yet are imaginary and fictional – they are make-believe. Yes, the Past happened, but it is not reality in this moment. Think about how many times people reminisce about the past. You can’t really affect that moment any longer, but you can certainly use it to affect you in this moment, and many of us do. But, we often let the past affect us in a negative way, just as we do with the future.
The Past and the Future, then, are not real. For example, let’s say you had an argument with someone at work last year about project deadlines that seemed unreasonable to you, but you didn’t say anything. Instead of resolving it in the Present Moment, you stayed silent and felt slighted having to follow someone else’s bad schedule. Now, an entire year later, you are still replaying that scenario over and over in your head, wishing you had said something. You spend valuable Present Moment time playing out the new endings in your head. The only problem is the event is over. It can’t be changed. All of your scenarios with your new endings are fantasies – they are unreal. You can do something about it in the Present Moment, though. You can say how you feel and, by doing so, prevent that in the future, at least to some degree.
Similarly, the Future is also an illusion. We have no idea what will happen in the Future and yet we operate as if we know exactly how things will unfold in the Future. Let me ask you this: how many times have you said or thought to yourself, “Well, that didn’t work out at all like I thought it would!” Our illusions about the future are often nothing more than that—illusions. Don’t waste precious time now making up the future.
And so, as we spend the majority of our time in the Past and the Future, we rarely experience true living. We are often somewhere other than here, and yet here is exactly the place that your body occupies. Our minds often wander off leaving our body behind to experience the Present Moment all by itself. Without the mind, the experience is not properly understood or utilized on a human level. When we are not in the Present Moment, we are out of alignment with our natural internal rhythm and innate wisdom.
This lack of alignment creates chaos, confusion, and an unbalanced sense of life. Any thoughts we have about the past or future that generate emotions are experienced in our body as if the event is happening now, but it’s not. All the stress generated by your mind and transferred to your body is for nothing. This unbalanced sense tends to create preventable illnesses that continue to plague us until we find our way back to the Present Moment where peace and health exist. We must remember that we can’t do anything about the past except have an experience, learn a lesson, and apply it when a similar situation presents itself. When we practice doing this with the past, we can become free from it rather than tied to it.
The Future is similar to the Past, although instead of unsuccessfully trying to change what has already happened, we often make up and play out scenarios on our heads that haven’t even happened yet. This, too, is just a fantasy—illusion. The problem with the future is that we mainly see things not working out for us or others. There is a lot of negativity placed on future events. The good news is, this is just training and we can unlearn any training to bring us into alignment with the Present Moment, leaving the future behind, so to speak. Although the Present Moment feels the least familiar, the least comfortable, and the least accessible to us, it is the only place that is natural, normal, and healthy for us to be. With practice, we can experience this.
Retraining: Making a Shift to Better Health
As we have discovered, the Past and the Future are both out of alignment with our soul energy. This mis-alignment leads to dis-ease as we worry and feel bad about things in our past and what might come in our future. We have a body that has a level of intelligence unmatched by the human ego, or what is also called our false self.
We also have a body where good health and vitality are normal. Living in the Past and the Future, with judgment, blame, regret, anger, worry, and fear actually misuses the valuable systems and resources within our body that are meant to keep us healthy in the Present Moment. For example, we have a fight, flight, or freeze mode onboard that helps us save our lives in the event of imminent danger, such as when we are being chased by a Tyrannosaurus Rex, or when we are held at gunpoint. This fight, flight, or freeze mode gives us the energy to stay and fight, to run to safety, or freeze like a statue. However, we tend to use our fight, flight, or freeze mode for daily life events and call upon it when someone cuts us off on the freeway or when someone says something we don’t like. Using this throughout the day for non-emergencies, we exhaust ourselves to the point of illness—preventable illness. The power to be healthy and live vibrant lives is ours and we can do this with a few small, but significant shifts. We can train ourselves to live more in the Present Moment than in the Past or the Future.
The Present Moment is real and available to us. It is what is truly happening right now. The Present Moment is a more peaceful place to live because living here allows us to spend our time and our resources handling what is really going on, using our energy to deal with reality instead of fantasy. Since most of us are not in situations of imminent danger throughout the day, reducing our stress can happen instantly if we want it to. This leads to a vast improvement of our health as we realign with the intelligence deep within us. With awareness of the contrast between the Past, the Present and the Future we can observe life and begin to focus on the Present Moment, experiencing the sights, sounds, smells and thoughts in what is often called The Now.
How can you make this shift and live in the The Now? Let go of feeling bad about what has already happened and let go of worrying about what isn’t here yet. You’ve already experienced what happened in the past — you don’t need to do it again. And don’t know what will happen in the future — you can only make informed decisions in the now. When you are in alignment with the Present Moment, it is easier to make choices that serve your highest self instead of your ego.
Be willing to see what transpires when you are aligned with the Present Moment. Don’t let any excuses get in the way like “My work is stressful” or “I have to drive on roads filled with angry people”. You can be in the Present Moment anywhere in the world. If your job has some stress attached to it, this is all the more reason to find some peace in it by focusing on the Present Moment every chance you get. Take care of what is in front of you and then let it go. Don’t retell the stress of the day over and over to others or run it through your mind hundreds of times. And when you are driving to and from work, give yourself a break by noticing the weather, the colors all around you, and the things you are grateful for in your life. This is where peace, love, and health exist—and all it takes is awareness and a little practice.