I know the idea of living in the present moment—mindfulness—is rooted in Eastern thought. Honestly, I don’t know much about it. I have never read a book by Eckhart Tolle or Alan W. Watts.
I don’t get the time-space continuum, but I have some inklings about it. When I think for very long about the length of eternity, I sort of blow a spiritual circuit. Maybe that’s because eternity can’t be measured by breadth or length, but is a continuum.
In the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire . . . all things . . . are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord (D&C 130:7).
Neal Maxwell explained it this way:
Our own intellectual shortfalls and perplexities do not alter the fact of God’s astonishing foreknowledge . . . amid the mortal and fragmentary communiques and the breaking news of the day concerning various human conflicts, God lives in an eternal now where the past, present, and future are constantly before Him (Neal A. Maxwell, “Care for the Life of the Soul,” Ensign, May 2003, 70).
So God lives in an eternal now? I still don’t understand how that all works, but I believe it. I don’t have to see it. I just have to feel it. And I do feel it.
I’d like to share a few ideas about living in the present, if you are willing to read on. Here’s what I believe.
Little children, for example, live in the present. They are not mired in the past or worried about the future. It’s all about right now for them. That can challenge parents, but it’s just how little people roll. It’s pretty wonderful most of the time.
We grow up and while we grow up—and I don’t care if you are 70, you are still growing up—we are creating a past that is often made up of faulty perceptions about ourselves and others. When we live in the shadow of those perceptions, we live in the past, not the present. And if you live in the past, whether it’s a happy past or a sad one, you are stuck.
If you worry a lot, you’re living in a difficult, unknown future. In fact, you are probably creating an unhappy future. As the saying goes, worry is a prayer for what you don’t want. If you are worrying or longing incessantly for something you hope might happen in the future, you are stuck.
If you are stuck, you are likely not exercising enough faith to fully accept what Christ has already done for you.
He can redeem you from your past and any sadness it causes you, whether regret for missteps or loss of happiness due to lost love. And any future with Him will be a happy, fulfilling one because He is the Guardian of hope. If we struggle to accept this truth, we are struggling to accept Him and thus ourselves.
Living in the present means you can do something right now to calm the past and the future. Right now, this minute.
A good place to start is to be completely honest with yourself and to trust yourself in His hands. Look at yourself in the mirror and say, “How can I fix what’s wrong with my life today? Give it to me straight.” A straight answer will usually involve doing something kind for someone else.
Be honest with others, too, but you need not tell your whole story except to those you trust. Begin by trusting God. Who else can you trust? An unselfish person who makes personal sacrifices for your well-being and protection is usually trustworthy and safe—a Mom-type person, for example.
One last thing. Joy is in the present. Old joys can make us sad because they are gone. Waiting to launch our happiness in the future is no way to live. You can be happy now. You can do something to change your mood and optimism today, this hour, this minute. That happiness will eclipse the past, whatever it’s made of, and guide your future into something you’ll enjoy.
Don’t worry about the future or past. Just think about what you can do and say right now to make someone’s life easier, better, and happier. God won’t let you down when you lift others up.
P.S. Here is an interesting article on mindfulness from Psychology Today (Nov. 2008), “The Art of Now: Six Steps to Living in the Moment.”