I tend to live in my head, to overanalyze. This often prevents me from engaging fully in the present moment.
Fortunately, I go to the gym daily, which offers me respite from living in my head. Whether I’m doing a cardio, strength training, or yoga, my mind can only think about breathing and moving in the present moment.
My fitness instructors will even call me out on my overthinking tendencies, “Hey, Karen! You’re thinking too much. Be present!” Sometimes I’m living in the past with shame and regret or by picking at scabs from injuries inflicted by others. Sometimes I’m living in the present, worrying about the worst-case scenarios or overplanning in a vain attempt to control.
If I can focus only on breathing and moving, after an hour of exercise, I feel calm in mind, body, and spirit. During my drive home, I often receive inspiration about how to address conflict in my life because exercising helps me to feel paradoxically relaxed and invigorated. I conceptualize my daily hour at the gym as a form of meditation.
But I have other tools for helping me live in the present moment. Yes, it’s the Sunday School Answers, but prayer, scripture reading, temple worship, and meditation helps me when I’m stuck in the past or worried about the future.
In addition to gym time and church resources, I do better when I adopt one of the mottos from the Alcoholics Anonymous program.
Essentially, I live peaceably and authentically when I live as a One Day at a Time Saint.
About once a decade since the 1970s, I’ve had a challenging life experience myself or a loved one that has put me in contact with Alcoholics Anonymous or one of its off-shoots (Narcotics Anonymous, Overeating Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous). The 13th Article of Faith reminds me that “if there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” The motto–and all the richness from these recovery programs—is, indeed, praiseworthy.
I also find guidance on how to live fully in the present when I read Zen Buddhist meditations. “Be Here Now” puts a slightly different spin on the parallel concept of One Day at a Time.
When I accept the persistent invitations to live in the present moment, I experience peace, comfort, and sanity.
While I do not believe that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints aims to promote shame or worry, sometimes I have used items from Church culture, programs, and ideologies to build cages of shame and worry.
I have used Church language about the various sins of commissions and omissions to conduct an inventory of all my past sins or the sins of others—damning myself and damning others by living in the past. And have also used Church language about goals, principles, and virtues in an attempt to be my own savior. When I try to overplan for the future, I am trying to overcome by “the arm of the flesh” all the challenges of being mortal. This is impossible when I am mortal, living among mortals, in a world filled with the challenges of mortality (sin, temptation, persecution, sickness, toil, and death—just to name a few).
While I’ll use AA mottos and Zen Buddhist mantras, I also learn how to live in the moment from passages of scripture. There are dozens, and I hope that readers share some in the comments. I’ll share just two: one about leaving the past behind, and one about abandoning worries about the future.
In Chapter 1 of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he invites people to be changed by the atonement of Jesus Christ. He lists sins they need to forsake, and virtues they need to adopt. He employs an image that puts this call into sharp focus when he writes,
“And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new [wo]man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:23-24).
The atonement offers me an opportunity to leave the past behind, to live fully and richly in a present that is filled with faith, hope, and charity. I can live richly in the present if I also lay the burdens of the future at the Savior’s feet.
In the Sermon of the Mount, Jesus contrasts the ways of the world with the kingdom of God. Obviously, reading the entire sermon has merit. But in Matthew Chapter 6, Jesus describes how nature lives fully in the presence—“Consider the fowls of the air! Consider the lilies of the field!”–bearing witness of the Creator’s beneficence: God will provide for our needs if we recognize our dependence on Him and follow in faith. At the end of that chapter, Jesus issues this invitation:
“Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself” (from Matthew 6:34).
Living one day at a time doesn’t mean abandoning an Eternal Perspective. It’s an acknowledgement that as mortals we can only use our limited time as a means for communicating with the Divine and adopting divine virtues—by escaping the prisons of the past and the future and engaging in the opportunities of the present moment as One Day at a Time Saints.