The Buddha taught that the past is gone and the future is not yet here. The present moment is the only moment in which life can be available. What does this mean?
First of all, it doesn’t mean that we can’t reflect on the past or plan for the future. These are necessary activities, and we all must do our best to do them effectively. But when we plan for the future or reflect on the past, we must not be swept away by the past or the future. We must be rooted in the present moment.
Secondly, it doesn’t mean license to indulge in destructive actions. The past and the future meet in the present moment, and we need to take good care of this moment in which the two meet.
That the present moment is the moment when life is available does mean that we can practice bringing ourselves back to the here and the now in every situation. In the here and the now there are always many positive elements, and it is a shame if we miss them. Even when we are facing many difficulties, we can only take care of the ones that are available now for us to do something about. It’s a relief to know that the now, in its difficult aspects, is all we ever have to take care of. Just this. That’s all we need attend to.
When we begin to live this way, the first things we notice is how frequently we are swept up in the past or the future. Don’t be discouraged, though. Noticing this is already a kind of progress.
The blue sky, the gentle breeze, the sound of your loved one’s voice, the warmth of the sun—all these and so much more are yours for the asking. But you can only enjoy them right now. Right here.