Jesus said: Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? … So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.Matthew 6:26-27, 34
Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow, but that is easier said than done, isn’t it? I find myself worrying about tomorrow quite often. And when I am not worrying about tomorrow, it is often because I am still thinking about something that happened yesterday! But living in the present moment is truly a wonderful and blessed way to go through life. I recommend it, even if I have a habit of forgetting to do it!
So, to encourage me to do this, I have collected quotations over the years on the wisdom of focusing on the present moment. This wisdom comes from both Christians and non-Christians alike, all of whom have discovered the liberty that comes from simply living in this present moment. Here are my favorites
First, Jean-Pierre de Caussade, who wrote a book about this: The Sacrament of the Present Moment. In this book he writes:
We cannot become truly good in a better, more marvelous, and yet easier way than by the simple use of the means offered us by God: the ready acceptance of all that comes to us at each moment of our lives.
Next is the Franciscan priest, author and speaker, Richard Rohr, who writes of living in the present moment in this way:
The contemplative secret is to learn to live in the now. The now is not as empty as it might appear to be or that we fear it may be. Try to realize that everything is right here, right now. When we’re doing life right, it means nothing more than it is right now, because God is in this moment in a non-blaming way. When we are able to experience that, taste it and enjoy it, we don’t need to hold on to it. The next moment will have its own taste and enjoyment.
Father Thomas Keating puts it very simply:
God is only in the present moment.
That is an interesting thing to ponder, isn’t it? God was with us yesterday, and promises to be with us tomorrow, but is only fully present to us in this present moment.
Eckhart Tolle is not described as a Christian, but has written extensively on living in the present moment, and offers wisdom to us all. In his book, The Power of Now, Tolle writes:
Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy. This will miraculously transform your whole life.
Thich Nhat Hanh is a well-known Buddhist monk who writes these words in Present Moment/Wonderful Moment:
Our true home is in the present moment. To live in the present moment is a miracle. The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green Earth in the present moment, to appreciate the peace and beauty that are available now. Peace is all around us – in the world and in nature – and within us – in our bodies and spirits. Once we learn to touch this peace, we will be healed and transformed. It is not a matter of faith; it is a matter of practice. We need only to find ways to bring our body and mind back to the present moment so we can touch what is refreshing, healing, and wondrous.
Here is one simply to ponder, from Dag Hammarskjold in his journal, Markings:
Offspring of the past, pregnant with the future, the present moment, nevertheless, always exists in eternity – always in eternity as the point of intersection between time and timelessness of faith, and, therefore, as the moment of freedom from past and future.
Finally, Bishop Kallistos Ware writes on this same topic from the perspective of the Eastern Orthodox tradition in the Christian Church:
Watchfulness (The Greek term is nepsis) means, among other things, to be present where we are – at this specific point in space, at this particular moment in time. All too often we are scattered and dispersed; we are living, not with alertness in the present, but with nostalgia in the past, or with misgiving and wishful thinking in the future. While we are indeed required responsibly to plan for the future – for watchfulness is the opposite of fecklessness – we are to think about the future only as far as it depends upon the present moment. Anxiety over remote possibilities which lie altogether beyond our immediate control is sheer waste of our spiritual energies.
Bishop Ware also offers this wonderful quote from Paul Evdokimov:
The hour through which you are at present passing, the person whom you meet here and now, the task on which you are engaged at this very moment – these are always the most important in your whole life.
And finally back to Jean-Pierre de Caussade for the promise that this present moment holds:
The present moment holds infinite riches beyond your wildest dreams but you will only enjoy them to the extent of your faith and love. The more a soul loves, the more it longs, the more it hopes, the more it finds. The will of God is manifest in each moment, an immense ocean which only the heart fathoms as it overflows with faith, trust and love.
I once heard someone say something about living in the present moment that I have since found very helpful: Whenever they catch their mind wandering, they simply ask themselves: “Where are my feet?” I love the simplicity of this question and that it helps me to use my body to anchor myself in the present moment. So, when I catch my mind wandering away from the present moment, as it often does, I simply ask myself: Where are my feet?
I hope that one of these quotes can help you to remember what a blessing it is to simply live faithfully in the present moment. And if not one of these quotes, I hope that you can simply do as Jesus teaches us in Matthew 6: Look at the birds of the air. Consider the lilies. Learn from God’s creation to simply be present to the moment, where you are, and where God is.
And when all else fails, ask yourself: Where are my feet?