The Zen philosophy of life is to live in the moment. Don’t look behind you, don’t look ahead – just exist in the now, this very minute, where you stand, sit or tumble. Live as if today was the last day of your life. Live life to the fullest and never let yourself fall into the trap of “what if” or “maybe someday.”
This doesn’t work for me.
When you reach the middle of your life as I have -and I hope it really is the middle- it’s impossible to shuck the past and ignore the future. And why would you want to? More to the point, how could you? How could you never look back and reminisce or remember, regret or revisit? How would that be possible? How simple and easy life would be if each day we could awaken to a blank slate, a fresh new beginning with no traces of the past following us around like stubborn little dust bunnies, clinging to our shoes, leaving trails of dirt behind us. It’s not going to happen. Ever.
More about life as I know it: Conversation With My 20 Year Old Self
You can meditate and follow your bliss all you want, but those moments in the past – good and bad – are going to sneak into your conscious thoughts sooner or later. And that’s ok, because without the past we would never be in the present – the all encompassing and more than perfect present moment that, to be honest, doesn’t exist. The present is a nanosecond, an itty bitty swatch of life. How can we live only in this moment? The past moment just happened, and the next one is coming up pretty quickly.When you reach the middle of your life you can't shuck the past and ignore the future. #midlifeClick To Tweet
Visit the past – romanticize it, regret it, think of it for hours on end. Let those mistakes you made and those thrills you had cloud your brain for a little while. Because who are we without our past? Loving someone depends on having shared memories and moments of greatness and moments so awful you wish they’d never happened…but they did happen. Whether you were good or bad, you are where you are and what you are because of the thousands of days before this one.
More about life as I know it: The More Things Change
And the future – well, that’s where all of our dreams are. The future is where things happen that we never could have imagined, no matter how much we think about it. The future is our children, our grandchildren, the continued evolution of who we are and the possibility of being what we want to be. The future is eternal and unknowable, and that’s what makes it so alluring and magnificent. Without the future, there would be no reason to try, challenge ourselves, contemplate or discover. The future is the better version of today – because anything can happen in the future. The future is built on plans and new ideas and what is improbable but still…we dream.
As Emily Dickinson said, “I dwell in possibility.” That is the future.
So yes, be in the moment. Watch your children play, hold your lover’s hand, see the painting, the flowers, the beautiful sunset. But let the past and the future in, because they are who you’ve been and who you’ll become. And part of what makes the present perfect is all the possibility to dwell in.