The Power of Now

I recently purchased the book The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle because I was intrigued by this idea:

Depression is dwelling on the past, anxiety is dwelling on the future, and peace is dwelling on the present.

Maybe you’ve heard something like that before. There is a very similar quote attributed to Lao Tzu, although I’ve heard that it may be questionable who really said it.

But this idea that living in the present moment is the key to peace and happiness has been something I have been pondering for a while.

The premise of Tolle’s book is that depression is experienced because we are dwelling on negative feelings about the past, like regret, guilt, or self-loathing. Anxiety is experienced when we negatively dwell on the future, causing feelings of fear, worry, or dissatisfaction with life in general. True peace and happiness, according to Tolle, comes when we stop living so much in our heads, and take time to be present in the here and now.

There are examples in the Bible that would seem to echo this idea. The Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) uses the phrase “give us today our daily bread” (NIV), which could imply that we only need to ask God for things concerning today (we don’t need to ask him for tomorrow’s bread, we just need today’s.) A little later in chapter 6, it says “therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.”

In the book of Exodus, when the Israelites are wandering in the desert, God provides daily food for them – manna and quail (ch. 16). The people are instructed to “go out each day and gather enough for that day.” Anyone who gathered more than a day’s worth found it to be rotting and “full of maggots” by the next morning.

Mindfulness, the practice of being fully present with where we are and what we’re doing, has been gaining popularity in Western culture over the past decade or so, and it also heavily utilizes the present moment, the NOW, to decrease stress and anxiety. Mindfulness meditations typically have you focus on sensations in your body and view your body and thoughts in a non-judgmental way. Headspace, one of my top picks, is a great app to check out for guided mindfulness meditations.

Obviously the idea of there being power in the now is not new or uniquely attributed to one person.

So what does it look like practically to live in the present moment?

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Rude or Kind, Words Matter

Earlier today I had a person speak very rudely to me at work – it was much more jarring than I expected it to be – by that I mean I was surprised by how much their words alone could hurt me. I walked away from that interaction extremely angry, wanting justice for the wrongs that I felt had been done to me.

I’m not the type of person who is particularly graceful at handling moments like these. I wish I could think faster on my feet and come up with the perfect response. But no, I’m that person who replays the event over and over in their head, crafting what would have been an ideal response in varying scenarios. I wish I didn’t get so flustered by my emotions. I tend to feel emotions hard and fast, and all I could think to say at the moment it was happening were things that I knew I shouldn’t. So instead, I didn’t say a lot, I just fumed inside.

As I reflected on the event, I remembered that Jesus went through countless encounters of people being rude to him, hating him, and obviously going so far as to eventually crucify him. How many times did Jesus desire “justice” for himself? How many times did emotions like anger overwhelm him? How many times could he have said, “Do you know who you’re talking to? God in the flesh!” Jesus could have used his power and status to put others in their place if he wanted to.

But he didn’t. He made himself lower. He prayed for his enemies. He forgave. He loved.

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Spiritual Bravery: My Focus for 2021

Only recently have I been the type of person to pick a word or phrase to focus on for the upcoming year (as opposed to more concrete resolutions), but as I’ve thought ahead to what I want my 2021 to look like, my mind kept bringing up the word “faith.” 

What do I mean when I say “faith?” I mean belief in God or a higher being, and trusting that God is actively working in my life, that things in my life are happening for a reason – and enjoying the peace that comes with that conviction.

For the past 5 years or so, I’ve been very mindful that my faith feels like it is lacking. It’s most noticeable when I am around someone who has strong faith – whose faith influences their daily decisions and isn’t just something they talk about in appropriate religious contexts. 

Religion is something that has always been a part of my life – I grew up going to church every Sunday, and in general have always been a rule-follower and someone who is concerned with “doing the right thing” and being a “good person.” But religion and faith are very different.

Like many others who grew up being religious or going to church, there comes a point in your life when you start to wonder why your church/religion does things the way they do, and if you actually believe those are the right things to be doing in the first place. Depending on what conclusions you come to in answering those questions, this can be a pretty scary or even earth-shattering time of life. 

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