Wednesday, August 25, 2010

One Day at a Time

   It seems mundane advice to give someone, given that it is not possible to live more than one day at once.  So why is it that people so often offer the adage to another in a tight spot?  It’s because sometimes life comes charging at us with both barrels loaded and it feels like even one minute might be too much to handle.  At those times, it’s essential to remember that we really only have control over the current moment and that is enough to manage.
   Fortunately, all we can affect is what is immediately before us.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is, we spend an abundance of energy worrying about what has been and what is to come so that we don’t really live in the present.
   As human beings, we tend to find things to worry about, even when everything is pretty much okay.  We are often thinking about what happened yesterday and wishing we had handled it another way or that things had turned out differently.
   Nothing is ever exactly as we wish it would be; disappointment, anger, sadness are all natural emotions and should be expected.  It’s when we hold on to these emotions that we get into trouble. 
   We might hold onto disappointment about something that did not work out the way we had hoped.  We might still be stewing about some mistreatment we feel we have received.  Perhaps our biggest problem is guilt over hurting someone’s feelings or causing an avoidable disruption.  Perhaps we tend to hold grudges and stay mad instead of using our angry energy to take better care of ourselves or others.  Many of us harbor emotions from past experiences that actually increase the anxiety even more. 
   We all make mistakes.  Noticing them helps us grow.  So does apologizing, changing our course of action and setting new limits.  The idea is to take responsibility for ourselves, make a new decision and take a new action.  Worrying gets us nowhere, except stuck in our heads.
   We cannot affect the past.  We may as well accept that. What we can do is make a decision in the current moment to affect the present circumstances.  We can plan for the future, but it’s anyone’s guess as to how things will really turn out.  A good friend of mine and I used to refer to worrying about what might happen in the future as “making up scary stories”.  This is when you decide what is likely to happen or what someone might do and you get yourself all in a tizzy about it.  This is a huge waste of energy.  The truth is that you don’t know.
   Live life.  Experience this day.  Notice the beauty unfolding before your eyes.  Nature, laughter, the antics of children.  If we set reasonable expectations of what can be accomplished in one day, even when life feels like too much, we realize that we need only make the decisions immediately before us.  Then let go to enjoy what life has to offer today; for tomorrow, it will be gone.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Peace Comes From Within

    Our family traveled to Estes Park, Colorado for vacation.  We obtained some rest and relaxation, but the primary purpose of the visit was to experience the beauty of the mountains and to visit the wildlife there.  We entered the Rocky Mountain National Park just up the road to see what we could see.  We saw a coyote crossing the road in front of us.  None of us in the car had ever seen a coyote.  That was cool.  There must have been some good reason for the marmots to be on the edge of the road that day.  We saw six or more poised in perfect view throughout the day, just far enough away from the car that they remained where they were, as if on display.
   We looked long and hard to see a moose on the other side of the park, closer to Grand Lake, where the moose live.  Near the end of our quest, we spotted a search party of other moose-seekers, out of their cars, binoculars in hand, pointing to the woods nearby.  There was our moose.  I love to see a moose.  She was a small female, munching away on the brush, barely visible behind the trees.  But, nonetheless, we saw a moose.
    We saw elk, too, of course, since they are plentiful in that region and have little to no fear of humans.  We saw herds of female elk, but only one small male on our search in the park.  It’s pretty special to see a large male elk with a rack of 7-point antlers.  Upon our return, we were all tired from our day of driving over the tops of the mountains and back again.  When we pulled toward our cabin, we stopped.  There, within fifteen feet of us was our very own 5-point elk.  We all sat, bewildered, staring at him eating the bush we had been parking next to in the driveway all week.  Windows open and cameras drawn, we  gawked and snapped pictures, but also sat in silence and in awe.  
    My Mom said, later, “We looked for elk all day in the park and all we had to do was come home.”  She had no idea how profound I thought her statement was.  All we had to do was come home to find what we were looking for.  We search, sometimes in addictive ways, to fill the emptiness with something, anything.  We shop, drink, have too much sex, gamble, to find something that we don’t have, that might finally satiate our hunger for peace within ourselves.  Sometimes we immerse ourselves in our friends or church or books or work, hoping to fill the void.  Sometimes it feels like we are on a gerbil wheel, running and getting nowhere, not ever getting any closer to feeling whole.  Friends, church and books can be resources to use to get to where we want to be.  Friends can play an invaluable role in our lives.  The community, fellowship and religious ritual found in church is essential to the hearts of those that feel close to God there.
     But God is everywhere, including within us.  We don't need to look anywhere for peace, only to know it is already there.   "Be still and know that I am God."