Eckhart Tolle wrote a very good book called The Power of Now, a book which I had some very mixed feelings on. Actually it is probably more correct to say I have some mixed feelings about its author, but in either case the overall message of the book is fantastically good, and it is written in a way that has turned out to be very accessible to a lot of people.
The message is simple. You must live in ‘the now’ (today) because that is all you have.The future does not yet exist, and the past is no longer changeable.
Take a moment and consider how profound that idea is.
Every moment of your life that you spend worrying about the future, and regretting the past, is a moment of your life you have lost forever. There is absolutely nothing you can do to get that time back.
Today is my birthday. On no other day during the year am I more conscious of the passage of time, or my mortality, and my natural human instinct is to take inventory of everything I didn’t do in the past years and wish I did, and to a lesser degree everything I did do that I wish I hadn’t (as we always regret what we didn’t do more than what we did). This is a foolish waste of my life. There is no way for the change anything about the past year, it is finished, locked, completed. Worrying about the past is like trying to erase permanent marker, the marker will stay, but you’ll certainly use up your eraser.
One year from now I will be one year older. That in itself is beyond obvious, but consider that is the only thing I know about the future, and I do not even truly know that, I could die before then. But assuming that tragedy does not strike me, that is the only thing I know about the future. I do not know where I will be living, what my job will be, how much money I will have, if I will be in a relationship, with who. I do not even know what I will have for dinner tomorrow. I may have a plan as to what I will have for dinner tomorrow, but I do not know.
Because it could change. And yet I can not change it. Even something as simple as what I will have for dinner tomorrow is not within my power to change. I can change what I plan to have for dinner tomorrow, but because some un-foreseen event might cause that plan to be altered, I cannot actually change what I will have for dinner tomorrow until…
…tomorrow. Specifically, at the very moment I am going to eat dinner. That is to say, I cannot change what I will eat for dinner tomorrow, until tomorrow becomes today, this moment, now. This moment is the only moment I have any control over. I cannot change my mind about the unhealthy meal choice I made this evening (A burger and onion rings), nor can I know for sure that I will do any better tomorrow. In this moment I can choose to go to the gym, I can choose to sit contentedly knowing that it tasted pretty damn good and was worth it, I can stick my finger down my throat supermodel style, or I can say to heck with it and stuff myself with cake too. After all, it is my birthday.
But I cannot un-eat that burger. I cannot be certain I will not eat one tomorrow. And any time I spend worrying about either of those things is time well wasted, seconds, minutes, hours of my life that I am throwing away.
And that is the necessity of now. If you do not live in this moment, you are not living at all.