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How New Year’s Can Teach Us to Live in the Present

How New Year’s Can Teach Us to Live in the Present

Life is basically simple. Yet we make it hugely complicated by worrying about things that haven’t yet happened, or wishing things were like they were in the past and always talking about the good old days. What a tangle we get into!

A new year has a very special effect as it invokes the wonderful possibility of new beginnings. It makes us feel like we have the chance to start over, to untangle the mess and do things right this time, make amends or become the person we know we really can be. Hence all those resolutions, like mantras, made with such conviction and determination.

So why does it take a new year to make us behave like this? Why is it that for 364 days we live with regret, doubt, holding on to what we did wrong and wishing we hadn’t, or dreaming of a future that can never be because it doesn’t exist, and then for just one day we resolve to change all this?

No Change

No matter how hard we try there’s one thing we can never do and that’s change the past. We can whack pillows with a baseball bat, beat our fists against the table, or eat bags of cookies to assuage our guilt, but it won’t make the slightest bit of difference and really won’t make us feel any better. The past is gone, over, no more, done, finito.

Continuing to wish that our actions or words had been different means we’re really not in the present but are living in what-could-have-been or what-might-have-been or if-only. If the past is too painful or even too boring then we switch over to the future, that place of infinite potential that we want to believe could be real, like wishful thinking or a daydream. We live in what-might-be or what-could-be.

Of course we can learn from the past. Often the most painful experience turns out to be our best teacher; we can be grateful as the experience taught us so much. Memories are like comfortable old shoes we are reluctant to part with. However, we can certainly put them on now and then but we don’t have to hang out in them on a permanent basis.

Instead we can change our attitude toward what happened. Fully accepting that the past is irreversible and the future doesn’t exist means we can actually just be in the present moment. Finally we can be here and now. Wow! What a relief! What a revelation!

Just For Today

Each day is a very special day. It has never happened before and it will never happen again. And you have no idea what will happen. The greatest wonder is never being able to know what will come next: no matter how hard you try, the future will always be ahead of you.

So what a great time just to be here now! To be with what is! The perfect day to let the past rest where it is and let the future take care of itself. As is every day.

Experience just this moment, pay attention to the colors, sounds, smells and sensations. Pay attention to your feelings, to other people’s feelings, and make this day, this week, this month, and this whole year, one of beauty and tenderness. Happy New Year!

Read more: Blogs, Ed and Deb, Guidance, Inspiration, Peace, Self-Help, Spirit, , , , , ,

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Ed and Deb Shapiro

You can learn more in our book, Be The Change: How Meditation Can Transform You and the World, forewords by the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman, with contributors Marianne Williamson, Jane Fonda, Ram Dass, Byron Katie and others. Our 3 meditation CD’s: Metta—Loving kindness and Forgiveness; Samadhi–Breath Awareness and Insight; and Yoga Nidra–Inner Conscious Relaxation, are available at:


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11:09AM PDT on Mar 18, 2014

Thank you

1:00AM PST on Feb 5, 2014

Favorite Poem by William Stafford (You Reading This, Be Ready)

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day.

This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life –
What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

Hope everyone's New Year is off to a great start!

Thank you, Ed and Deb, for the best New Year advice.

12:13PM PST on Jan 18, 2014

It's hard to achieve the perfect balance between assessing the past/planning for the future, and wallowing about the past/fretting about the future. The distinction is probably what the article is referring to. Thanks.

11:12AM PST on Jan 8, 2014

Thank you!

12:57AM PST on Jan 8, 2014

Thank you :)

7:25PM PST on Jan 5, 2014


11:26AM PST on Jan 5, 2014

Thanks for sharing.

5:34AM PST on Jan 5, 2014

Just for today... How stupid! I'd rather think of my future!

5:31AM PST on Jan 5, 2014

As if we had no future....

9:10PM PST on Jan 4, 2014


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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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