The philosophy of taking one day at a time is a healthy one. When you live in either the past or the future, you miss what is going on right in front of your nose. When you are going through hard times, the habit of living essentially in the present, one day at a time, or even one hour at a time, can literally mean the difference between breakdown and sanity. Living in the moment can help you endure a seemingly unbearable situation and find meaning in the simplest things, even when circumstances appear hopeless.
"Truth has no special time of its own. Its hour is now . . . always."
- Albert Schweitzer
Meanings constantly change because your life is constantly changing. The ring that you wore yesterday and treasured as a sign of eternal fidelity may be tarnishing in the back of your kitchen drawer tomorrow. Meanings are found in the present. Looking to the future for happiness or living on past glories is a sure setup for disappointment and a way to lose touch with what you most want and need to support your wellness today.
Life is less satisfactory when it is lived only in a linear mode—constantly moving along a line that extends into the future, piling one experience upon another. It’s a little like being a tourist in a great museum trying to see everything in a few hours. But fortunately we can learn to live in and savor the present moment. Poets and songwriters have struggled for ages to express this concept. "Today is the first day of the rest of your life" and other memorable quotes remind us to appreciate the present. Mystics and spiritual teachers have assured us of the same thing. Jesus said, "So, do not worry about tomorrow." Spiritual master Meher Baba continually reminded his friends: "Don’t worry, be happy."
"Normally we do not so much look at things as overlook them."
Ways to Stay Present
Right now: Look at your hands. Don’t just glance at them; examine them at length. Discover something about your hands that you hadn’t known or noticed before. Now touch your hands. Explore them and the many different ways they move. Feel them against your face. Smell them. Taste them. Sit and rest and look deeply at your hands as if they were your most precious friends. For the rest of this day, whenever you notice or think about your hands, let them remind you to breathe and relax into the present moment.
- Use your breath as a cue to remain present and receptive to all the sensations—sights, smells, sounds, textures, and tastes—and the many possibilities that each moment offers.
- Stop before every meal or each new task. Pray or reflect about what you are about to do so you don’t miss it.
- Live one day at a time. Limit your worries to this day, at the very most. The quality of each day can always be upgraded by remembering how precious time is.
- Take time each day for silence and solitude. The simple practice of meditation or focused consciousness is the most powerful means of moving into the here and now and staying "here" more consistently.
- Exercise vigorously and regularly. Using your body physically can be a natural high—a means of altering your consciousness—and a powerful way to connect with the multisensory experience of life in the present moment.
Reprinted with permission, from Simply Well by John W. Travis, MD, & Regina Sara Ryan. Copyright 2004. Celestial Arts, Berkeley, CA.
The online version of Dr. Travis' Wellness Inventory may be accessed at (www.WellPeople.com). The Wellness Inventory may also be licensed by coaches, health and wellness professionals, and organizations.