By Sue Patton Thoele
Originally published in Skin Deep, October/November 2004.
“I’ve always had two or more tracks running in my head. The pleasurable one was thinking forward to some future scene. Imagining what should be, planning on the edge of fantasy. The other played underneath with all too realistic fragments of what I should have done. There it was in perfect microcosm, the past and the future coming together to squeeze out the present — which is the only time in which we can be fully alive.”
— Gloria Steinem
Recently I was talking to a young friend who was terrified that her newly purchased business was going to fail and her future would be in ruins. Her concerns were well founded, and, after listening for a while, I asked, “Honey, can you manage only what needs to be done right now?” After some hesitation, she answered, “Yesss…” My friend had fallen into what I call the Future Hole. Her fear of a possible future was paralyzing her ability to be positive now. The enormity of possible future losses was also causing her to panic. How well I recognize the Future Hole/Panic scenario from my own life. Do you?
When we’re feeling confused, chaotic, or discouraged, focusing on something that is orderly right now helps us regain equilibrium. By finding order in the present moment — and in close proximity — our minds can realign to accept the possibility of order being available elsewhere.
Closely examining the center of a flower and noticing the incredible order and beauty in it gives us hope. Even looking for the orderly progression of words on this page, or observing how predictably your fingers flow from the palms of your hands, can bring solace when you are assailed by chaos and hopelessness. Allow yourself to be calmed by the order and do-ability inherent in the present moment.
By consciously working with the feelings and patterns active in the present, we also heal wounds and misconceptions from the past. Freed from the limits of the past, we can choose new, self-loving, and affirming ways to live and love in the world. Now is truly the only moment in which we are fully alive. To paraphrase a popular aphorism, “The present moment: Use it or lose it.”