Life for me is like a book. We are the authors, editors, and publishers of our stories. We create each paragraph by the way we live our lives. The chapters contain romance, tragedy, wisdom, suspense, humor, adventure, but none hold empty pages. ALL HUMANS HAVE TRUE STORIES, however, no one will ever know if you are presenting yours in the form of fantasy or fiction. BUT YOU’LL KNOW. YOU KNOW YOUR STORY.
I want to live my life with such integrity that I never have to worry again about being an open book. It took me 46 years to get to such a realization.
( Photo by Marcos Paulo Prado )
After nearly half of a decade of feeling somehow lost, life unexpectedly presented me with a situation that changed life as I knew it. This painful experience helped me discover parts of myself that were buried under a tremendous amount of fear and anger. My soul healing journey started slow, unpleasantly, uncomfortable, scary, but it has turned into a worthwhile life-changing experience. I will share three things that I had to do to begin to heal. Today, I will focus on the first one: PRESENCE.
We spend, at least I have, most of our lives living “in another time.” One of the questions we often ask children is, “What do you want to be or become when you grow up? and to young adults, we ask, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” I wonder how different would society be if time was out of the picture. The questions would change to “What do you want to be NOW? Where do you see yourself NOW?” I want to invite you to do a quick experiment and ask yourself questions in the present form. Please pay attention to how your body responds to these questions. Did you sense a natural impulse to take action? Did you feel an urge to act NOW?
To be present is the most difficult trait to be learned, even though presence is all it takes to master it. The reason we live most of our existence “in another time” is that living in the now requires our PRESENCE. Presence requires BEING. When we are not ready to be and accept our authentic self, the NOW without a past or future to hold onto or hide behind “seems” FRIGHTENING!
I used the word “seems” intentionally because living NOW is actually the most empowering experience. For a long time, Past and Future took me away from the PRESENT, living me with a lot of empty “todays.” I now clearly see how every single loss I have experienced is linked to spending present time away from the Now. How crazy is that?
Think about it? If this was the last day of your life, would you wait? If all you have is this hour, would you allow past offenses to stop you from forgiving? Would the thought of an extraordinary tomorrow stop you from embracing your ordinary today? Would you stop becoming the best version of yourself now because of yesterday’s mistakes? Would you hold back your love for those that mean so much to you? The problem is time. Thinking we have time or living in another time prevents us from experiencing our best life NOW.
– Photo by Jackson David –
One day back in March of 2020, I was painting my front door when, in reality, my presence was taking a walk through the memories of the previous three years of my life. Feelings of dread, guilt, inadequacy, shame, and many other emotions tortured me while questioning how I ended with a broken marriage after 22 meaningful and loving years together. Paint dripping from my brush on the floor brought me back to the present moment. It was then that a merciful realization came to my consciousness. What about if the Past is not your enemy? What about if the Past is your teacher?
A year and a half after my divorce and five months after my best friend committed suicide, feeling the heavyweight of my new unbearable reality, these questions came back to me unexpectedly in the middle of the night: Desi, what about if the Past is not your enemy? What about if the Past is your teacher? At the time, I was broken. I have lost too much. I was too exhausted to carry the weight of my Past anymore, so that night, I paid attention to these questions.
I was ready to learn; however, confronting so many past mistakes and painful losses became the hardest experience I’ve ever had. It would take pages to describe the distress I was in that night, but I would say that my level of fear, anxiety, grief, guilt, self-emotional-punishment, and hopelessness was so powerful that life lost all meaning: the “Now” had no value. All this distress, as I mentioned, came as the culmination of months utterly immersed in past events and the negative future my unmerciful thoughts condemned me to. At a moment of total despair, one single thought brought me to the present: BREATH WITH YOUR SENSES.
I have never heard or done this before, so I am amazed that my body knew how to respond to this prompting. I visualized my breathing, paid attention to the speed and the sound of each inhale and exhale, felt each breath on my hand, tasted the dryness in my mouth, full awareness of that single task took over. Focusing on each present breath at that particular moment errased every thought from my mind. My presence was fully present. Hours later, genuinely accepting and surrendering to the uncertain Now, I said my final goodbye to my good teacher, the Past. It had done his job and I let it retired. I marvel at what happened next. Peace flowed instantly, replacing all the anxiety, fear, and shame I had felt for so long, and for the first time ever in my life, I felt my whole presence. My circumstances had not changed, but I had. Accepting the Past as my teacher and especially giving my full awareness to the present moment took away the heavy burden I carried for so long. That night, I started to heal.
The following day I shared on my Instagram account this lesson from the night before.
If we are not present, the Past/Future will deceivingly feel like an escape instead of a prison. Let me explain; a “happy past allows us to escape to times of juvenile love, fun friendships, and gratifying cultural experiences, often making us feel unsatisfied with the NOW. A gloomy past brings back our mistakes or the mistakes of others (abuse, hurt, guilt, loss, anger, etc.), often causing mental, physical, and emotional illnesses, holding us back NOW, paralyzing us with fear and anger. The future works likewise, giving the illusion of always being better or worst than the NOW, one way or another, making the PRESENT an undesirable place to be. We become addicted to the Past and Future because they free us from acting and making difficult and challenging changes NOW. This quote by Eckhart Tolle from his book The Power Of Now summarizes perfectly the danger of living away from this very moment since real change can only happen now.
We live in a world that, more than ever before, takes us away from the Now. Ready? In early August, the stores, for example, are displaying Halloween decorations, and by the end of September, we have the North Pole in the main aisle! When our kids are little, we can’t wait for them to become independent and learn how to talk, walk, eat… And when they grow up, we wish they could be little again. When we are dating, we can’t wait to get married, and when we are married, we look back to the single days. We can’t remember what we did this weekend because we were too busy dreaming about the future. My point is, we miss the seasons of life. We don’t see the precious people around us because we hope, wish, and live in another time. The past and all the loss I have experienced has taught me one valuable lesson: To live and give my fall presence to the NOW.
Photo by Nadi Whatisdelirium
So my friend, if you need to heal old wounds, heal NOW. If you must visit the Past, do it but fully understanding that the only thing you can gain from it is the lessons you have to learn. Learn them. Then thank your history for what it has taught you and close the door behind you.
And the future? “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. – Matthew 6:34.” It’s simple, LAUGH today, WORK today, LIVE today, LOVE today, GROW today, LEARN today, FORGIVE today, BE PRESENT today and if tomorrow comes you will harvest the fruit of the NOW!
Tons of love.