Live in the present, not past or future

Adam Harbinson
Adam Harbinson

It seems that as life has become increasingly manic over that last decade or so and there has been a corresponding explosion in interest in, and the need for, counselling or therapy.

One tool for dealing with stress, anxiety and the results of overwork that has caught my attention is known as Mindfulness.

I think I’ve mentioned it before. Rooted in Buddhism, although now well divorced from it, it emphasises the need to live in the present. Many of us stagger and reel through our daily existence with one eye on the past with all its regrets and missed opportunities, and the other eye on the future, hoping that all the things we hope for will magically present themselves.

That said, Albert Einstein springs to mind, for he it was who defined insanity as doing that you’ve always done the way you’ve always done it and expecting a different outcome, or words to that effect.

The practitioners of Mindfulness make surprising claims, ranging from significantly more creativity, victory over insomnia and an end to crippling depression. The argument goes thus: if you live the bulk of your life in the past, or in the future, it is obvious that there will be limited energy to concentrate on the problems of today.

This might be a good time of the year to ponder on these things, for who among us has no regrets or skeletons in cupboards or dreams and plans for tomorrow?

Now while the last five or more years have seen an exponential growth in the practice of Mindfulness, there is nothing new under the sun, Nor is there anything novel in the reluctance of humanity to fully occupy and exploit the present, and there is an interesting example of it in the New Testament.

You know the story: Jesus’s friend Lazarus was ill. His sisters Mary and Martha sent Jesus a message, so concerned were they that their brother might die, but even though Jesus loved the family, he stayed where he was, a couple of miles up the road, for a further two days. Eventually Jesus said: ‘Right, Lazarus is dead. Let’s go and wake him up.’

So here’s the interesting bit. Before Jesus arrived at the family home in Bethany the word got out that he was on his way. Martha ran out to meet him, saying:‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ She was living in the past, the familiar world of ‘if only’.

Jesus replied: ‘Your brother will rise again’ and Martha answered: ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’ Now she is in the future, the land of milk and honey, the sweet bye and bye when all our problems will have gone.

However, what Jesus said next is the key to stress-free living, crucial to a life, not without troubles but with the ability to rise above them. He said: ‘Martha, I am ...’ – not I was, or I will be.

So for me, no New Year resolutions for 2015, just a commitment to live in the present with the great I AM, trusting that everything about my past – good bad and indifferent – is known to him and forgiven by him. And better still, my future can be entrusted into his hands: no concerns about my past, no worries about my future. I can focus on the now. That’s true Mindfulness.