On my birthday in 2008 I wrote a piece which I am still learning to implement today. It is a companion piece to Jan's from earlier in the week. May it be of value to you as well.
To be free of past expectations and future concerns is to be at peace in the present. What I had imagined for my future when I was young has not turned out to be. What I fear for my future now will not turn out to be. What I miss in the process of contemplating and fretting the two is the moment in which I live right now. This moment, what I actually experience, is all I possess. Even it is fleeting, and cannot be held or kept. Yet, I most often fail to see this moment because I am too concerned about not living up to my past delusions or concerning myself with what may be.
To conduct a self assessment periodically is healthy. To plan for the future is smart. Yet, the best thing I can do for inner peace of mind and soul is to accept that the past is gone, not to return, and to understand that the future will unfold in ways I can not presently imagine. All I can control is my reaction to what is happening right now.
Improv and Buddhism have taught me that it is my reaction to now that matters most. What I make of this moment, how I respond to these inputs, what I listen and hear people saying in this time, that is what I can work with. Everything else, no matter how important it once seemed or how great or threatening it can be, is just wasted energy. I need to focus on the now. I need to live in the present.
In order to be at peace with me, in order to be at peace with the world, my only option is to face the second by second experience that is life and make the choices I can with the information I have to earn each and every moment that confronts me, making the best of that moment in whatever way I can.
Some choices in the moment will be wrong, ill-hearted, or selfish. I can take stock of these choices as I make them. Determine why I am making the choice I am making, and look to my intentions in this life. As I assess each moment’s action, I can create a picture of what drives me. This is not fretting over lost opportunities, but rather choosing each moment to be the best person I can be at that moment. It is accepting that all I’ve done is who I am now and all I will do is who I will be. It is being the best, choosing the right motivations, at the time I am making my choice to act. It is making an honest choice to myself and the world around me. It is removing the cloud of self-doubt or deception, rationalization and remorse. It is simply being me.
If I take nothing else from the past two years of my life, it should be this lesson. The moment is the only thing I experience. The rest is meaningless. How I react to the moment defines who I am. I can choose my path a million times a day. Every moment is a chance to make it a path of peace.