Saturday, March 1, 2014
Living in the Moment
Living in the moment is such an ubiquitous phrase that is easily ignored, at least for me.
I didn't even know what the heck it meant to live in the moment. I'm not even sure I do now.
I remember reading that one can only get anxious about two things: the past and the future. Do you want to not be anxious? Live in the present, and your anxiety levels will go down.
"Okay, got it, now how in the world do I that? Isn't it ontologically impossible to live anywhere but the present?" I thought to myself.
One Tuesday morning I was walking through the streets of East Oakland, headphones in ear, as you would usually find me on the streets.
"This is it!" said someone named T. Harv Eker (a motivational speaker on wealth, I learned later. While simplicity is my desire, not wealth, he did teach me something that morning) on a podcast on men's growth, as he explained his favorite quote. This is it, there is no past or tomorrow you can live in so don't keep telling yourself "If only I get this or that in the future then I'll be happy, content, at peace...etc"
Those words, for some strange reason, sunk in for perhaps the first time in my life.
It identified an internal dialogue in my head, one so subtle and persistent that I hardly noticed it before: if I get this in the future, if God gives me this answer to prayer, then I'll be more content, peaceful and even happy..."
The problem with this kind of dialogue is twofold:
1. You contentment in life is persistently contingent on the future, which is never present and ever coming.
2. This creates a habit so that no matter what you get in life, the dialogue will keep reiterating itself with new unfulfilled goals and ambitions, and so that future never comes.
This toxic dialogue in the end hides a lie: it tries to make a reality of what it can never be, namely, the evasive dream of "the finished self".
Now what the heck do I mean by the "finished self"?!
It is important to realize that many of us, dare I say even all of us, have a desire for things, for life, and for ourselves, to get better, or perfect, or "complete".
This evasive perfection, however, is unattainable.
The "once I do this or that or once I accomplished this or that then I'll be ____" can only be followed by the same type of thinking once we get what we like or hoped for.
"We are works in progress" we often hear. But what is ever rarely said, I believe, is that the work progressed in us will not be finished.
We should not then have as a goal what I call "the finished self". There is no such thing, in this lifetime, as the finished self!
I believe until we get rid of this notion that our goal is to be the perfect finished self then we will never be content with who we are!
I say content, not complacent, which are two very different things.
Contentment says "I'm okay with being a work in progress NOW" and complacent says "I'm okay if nothing will change".
This is the key, I believe, with living in the moment: be content with always being a work in progress because, truth be told, you will not be anything in this life than a work in progress.
Our goal is, therefore, to keep being works in progress, not the evasive "finished self".
The "finished self" will come, as a fulfillment of all our desires, when we see Him who IS face to face, and are purified by His radiant light.
Until then, let us be content with who we are, works in progress in God's hands. If that's what you are, then you have already reached your goal to be content now.