"A good Wednesday morning to you, Dharma," I chirped, as he hopped in and made himself at home at my kitchen table. "Isn't this a lovely day, Sir?" I inquired of my honored guest. "Yes, Irwin, it most certainly is. I sense something new about you. What's going on, Tadpole?" "Well, Sir, I feel as if I've been reborn. I am renewed and full of hope this morning. I feel absolutely on top of the world!" Dharma stared at me in disbelief. Generally, I am cranky and out-of-sorts first thing in the morning so my behavior must have perplexed him. He said, "I'm glad to see you in such a good mood, Little One. This will tie in nicely with my lesson today. Irwin, every morning the frog is born again; what he does today is what matters most. Suppose you could wake up every morning and feel this good. Would your life improve?" "It sure would," I exclaimed! "It'd be awesome to feel this kind of joy every day. Is there a way I can do that, Master?"
So, as we sat down to our muffins and tea, Dharma began my lesson for the week. Living in the past is something we're all guilty of doing from time to time. And while looking back at the past at how things used to be can be helpful, dwelling or living in the past isn't helpful to us at all. In fact, it's detrimental to our growth. If you're not sure if you lie in the past, or not, Dharma suggests asking yourself these questions...just be sure to answer them honestly. 1. Is there a particular time in your life that you cling to? Your "glory days" that you relive over and over? 2. Do you feel as if you'll never reach that level of
happiness/satisfaction/status/acceptance, again? 3. Are you frustrated with where you are in your life right now? 4. Are you fearful of your future? 5. Does thinking about the past make you sad? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you're probably living in the past. So why is this bad? Dharma reminds us that living in the past robs us of the opportunity to enjoy the present. Living in the past allows us to avoid dealing with problems that we face now. The future is fraught with uncertainty and that, alone, can make it feel as is living in the past is preferable. "What if," we ask ourselves, "the future isn't as great as my past was...what then?" Life is hard. The future is scary. But living in the past won't make it any easier or any brighter. The hard truth is that it can make it worse.
Living in the present simple means living in the now; savoring each moment as it happens. The perfect response to every situation, both good an bad, lies in the here and now. So while learning from our past mistakes is a good thing, every situation is different and needs to be judged on its own, and not by what has happened in the past. History does repeat itself, but only if we let it; if we don't learn from our mistakes and apply them to our current situation.
Dharma tells us that every morning the frog is born again. This is true for all animals, especially humans. Each day is a new beginning; a new opportunity to grow and learn and challenge ourselves. While it is important to have a clear vision of what we'd like our future to look like, it is equally important to take new steps every day to assure that we get there. My honored teacher reminded me, too, that being open to new possibilities...to things we may not even know we want (or need) is one of the easiest ways we can live in the present. It's important to remember that what we do today is what matters most. Striving to do our the best we can each day, with what we've been given, is all any of us can do. There's well-used expression in the human world that bears repeating. The past is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. that is why it's called the "present." The here and now is all any of us are guaranteed. Making the most of it gives our lives meaning and depth.
As Dharma prepared to leave me for this week, he said, "Irwin, one of the greatest causes of unhappiness is not appreciating what we have. If you live in the past you can't fully appreciate the all the gifts that belong to you. It's never wise to focus your attention on what you don't have. Focus it, instead, on what you do have. Living in the present liberates us from the burdens of the past and allows us to live in most efficient and peaceful way possible. What you do today is what's important and what will bring you the happiness you want and deserve. Remember this, my son, and every day can be like today."
Wise words from Dharma. And ones we can all live by.