This I Believe

David - Chandler, Arizona
Entered on April 16, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: carpe diem

I believe in living in the present. I plan for my future by setting goals and taking action. I also look back on my life, mining my past for lessons. My past is rich with mistakes so my education will continue for a long time.

Spiritual leaders teach that stress originates with worry over the future or obsession with the past. I never understood this until I went through my second divorce. I thought that my constant state of anxiety was normal. A personal crisis led my second wife to ask me to move out adding a second divorce to the list of my problems. I didn’t have the spiritual fitness to deal with my circumstances. My stomach knotted up from worry. My mind was consumed with the mistakes of my life, endlessly reliving moments of shameful behavior and bad choices. My professional life was a maelstrom of stress from the threat of takeovers, post 9/11 downsizing and an on-going game of corporate musical chairs.

I started reading books on spiritual principles and began applying their lessons. One principle stood out. Let go of both past and future and live in the moment. It sounds easy, but I soon learned that it takes practice, patience and persistence. Letting go did not come naturally to me. I took some perverse pleasure in wallowing in the past and sweating over the future. But I slowly learned to stop worrying about the two domains over which I had absolutely no control. I learned to take pleasure in the simplest activities – watching a movie, visiting with friends or sipping a latte in Starbucks. I learned how to look back over my life without regret and shame. As I viewed my life as a montage of lessons, the past no longer brought stress.

My belief is being put to the test today. After eleven years, another corporate shuffle eliminated my position. I’ve been laid off twice before and both times I was devastated. My stomach churned, I couldn’t sleep and I suffered nervous tics. This time, I’m relaxed, confident and looking forward to my next challenge. I experience each day, enjoying the process of finding a new job, reconnecting with old friends and meeting new people. I’m planning a long vacation along the West coast to recharge my batteries. Fear and worry are not part of my plans. I’m sure maturity contributes to my attitude, but I don’t want to undervalue the principle of living in the present. I still have moments of worry, but they are few and far apart. And when I do have them, I can quickly work my way out of them.

Living in the present doesn’t solve my problems. It just releases me from emotional bondage to the past or the future.