By Ryan Tibbens
Today is the best day because it is the only day. Since the moment you were born, you have always lived in "today." You never lived "yesterday," and you will never live "tomorrow." Every day that you are alive is "today," and when you realize that, you'll have taken a long stride toward happiness.
When you realize that Monday, Hump Day, and Friday are only pseudonyms for today; when you realize that tomorrow never comes because, when the clock strikes twelve, tomorrow becomes today; when you realize that you will never wake up in tomorrow, just in a new today; when those abstractions become real, you will be when you are.
I often remind myself, my family, and my students that it is important to "Be where you are." I'm not as good at this as I'd like, but I try. My cell phone is the top distraction in my life, the most common reason that I'm not where I am. My mind is elsewhere, thinking thoughts unrelated to my physical surroundings, just one thumb and two eyes connect my consciousness to my physical reality. In those moments, I am not where I am. I often regret them because real life does not offer rewind or replay functions. The unreal world of my phone can almost always be rewound and replayed. Scarcity creates value, and I can only live now once, meaning right now, right here, is the most important moment in my life: it is my whole life.
We must remember that setting is both time and place, when and where; and to truly live, we must stay in our setting. To live life well, we must actually live our lives, and spending too much time thinking about the past or future means we are not appreciating today, our only day. I am not suggesting a life without reflection nor planning, but when our dominant thoughts in a day are about other days, it is safe to say that we are not fully living today. In Walden, Thoreau writes, "I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life[...]" In order to be present and mindful, Henry David Thoreau withdrew from society and lived a Spartan existence at Ralph Waldo Emerson's Walden Pond for two years, two months, and two days. He lived in a world much quieter than ours, and he still needed to change his setting in order to live today mindfully. If only we could all retire to a private patch of quiet, pristine wilderness when our focus and mindfulness need tuned.
The Roman Stoics saw life, time, and today in much the same way as Taoists and Transcendentalists, though their explanations tend to be more severe and demanding, more masculine and robust. In his Meditations, Marcus Aurelius writes, "Don’t let your imagination be crushed by life as a whole. Don’t try to picture everything bad that could possibly happen. Stick with the situation at hand, and ask, 'Why is this so unbearable? Why can’t I endure it?' You’ll be embarrassed to answer. Then remind yourself that past and future have no power over you. Only the present—and even that can be minimized. Just mark off its limits. And if your mind tries to claim that it can’t hold out against that…well, then, heap shame upon it.” He does not look for a secluded cabin site nor seek the reassurance of a friendly piglet; Aurelius demands mindful focus on today as a matter of pure will and necessity. He also talks about getting the most out of today: "Then hath a man attained to the estate of perfection in his life and conversation, when he so spends every day, as if it were his last day: never hot and vehement in his affections, nor yet so cold and stupid as one that had no sense; and free from all manner of dissimulation."
Even Taoism (see Pooh above) and Buddhism get in on the action of today. We must set in our setting. Be where you are. Be when you are. So much of life's stress comes from regretting yesterday and worrying about tomorrow, but that is silly -- yesterday and tomorrow only exist in our minds. If we can divert our attention and energy away from imaginary days and toward today, if we can pay attention to active attendance, then we can begin getting the most out of life while reducing anxiety and stress. Don't believe me? Check out all these inspirational quotes and images; they couldn't possibly be wrong.
Even the Serenity Prayer agrees: "God/Universe, grant me the serenity /To accept the things I cannot change [the past and future]; / Courage to change the things I can [today]; / And wisdom to know the difference. "
Be where you are, when you are. Be present. Check the links below for recommended reading on the subject.
Because no one else