A new year has a very special effect: it makes us feel we have the chance to start over, to do things right this time, to make amends, to become the person we really know we can be. Hence all those resolutions made with such determination.
So why does it take a new year to make us feel like this? Why is it that for 364 days we live with regret, doubt, holding on to what we did wrong and wishing we hadn't, or dreaming of a future that can never happen because it doesn't exist?
No matter how hard we would like to, there is one thing we can never do and that is to change the past. We can weep, beat our fists against the wall, eat bars of chocolate to assuage the guilt, but it won't make the slightest bit of difference and won't make us feel any better. The past is gone, over, no more. done.
Constantly wishing that our actions or words had been different means we are really not here in the present, but are living in "what-could-have-been" or "what-might-have-been" or "if-only." If the past is too painful or even too boring then we switch over to the future, that place of infinite potential that we want to believe could be real, like wishful thinking or a daydream. We live in "what-might-be" or "what-could-be."
Of course we can learn from the past. Often the most painful experience turns out to be our best teacher; we can even feel gratitude for the experience as it taught us so much. Memories can be like comfortable old shoes we are reluctant to part with. We can certainly put them on now and then, but we don't have to hang out in them on a permanent basis.
Instead we can change our attitude toward what happened. Fully accepting that the past is irreversible and the future does not exist means we can actually be in the present moment. Finally we can just be here and now. Wow! What a relief! What a revelation!
Today is a very special day. It has never happened before and it will never happen again. And we have no idea what will come next. No one can know it.
So what a great time just to be here now! The perfect day to let the past rest where it is and let the future take care of itself. As is every day. To experience just this moment, to pay attention to the colors, sounds, smells and sensations. To pay attention to your feelings, to other people's feelings and to make this day, this week, this month and this year, one of beauty and tenderness.
What does being in the present mean to you? Do comment below.
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