do not fear the ghosts of past and future

do not fear the ghosts of past and future

“Whenever we worry about something in the past or the future, we are setting up our own little haunted house and peopling it with our own special ghosts.”

– Eknath Easwaran

“We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.” 

– Seneca

Most of us live anxious and worried lives. And the sad part is that we hardly ever live in the present. 

If there was a smartphone app that could track and monitor our thoughts, I’m sure we would all be surprised to see how little time we spend focusing on the present. Most of the time that we’re blessed with is squandered thinking about either past or future, or just building castles in the air and staying lost in the fantasy world. 

“The only thing you ever have is now” 

– Eckhart Tolle

Only a fraction of our time on this planet is spent fully living the present moment. This is plain sad, because the present is all we truly have. Now is what we have — life is nothing but a series of nows. Marcus Aurelius beautifully captured this sentiment in these words: “Discard everything except these few truths: we can live only in the present moment, in this brief now; all the rest of our life is dead and buried or shrouded in uncertainty. Short is the life we lead, and small our patch of earth.”

Our time, our energy and our attention are our most precious commodities. And that’s why it makes absolute sense to use them diligently. Instead of spending them to relive the horrors of the past and imagine the tragedies of future, we must protect our precious moments and take concrete steps so that we train ourselves to give our undivided, unfragmented interest to the here and now. 

The more you focus on the present moment, the better, easier and more streamlined your life gets. We’ve all heard the famous maxim, “Where attention goes, energy flows.” We have to keep our eyes on the path in front of us and on the things that are within the realm of our control, right here, right now. Whenever something negative or distracting tugs at our attention, we must avoid the temptation to look in that direction. If we allow our attention to flow either to past mistakes or future worries, we’re doomed; all of our precious energy is wasted. However, when our mind stays fully focused in the present, we preserve our energy and maintain our vitality and verve. 

And despite all our efforts, if things get incredibly challenging and we find our attention dwindling often, we can ponder upon these lines by the Indian mystic Swami Ramdas and empower ourselves to bring our focus back to the present:

“Give up all fears,

all anxieties, all doubts,

all thoughts of weakness.

You have put yourself under the guidance and control

of an all-powerful being.

Let Him do what He pleases with you.

Give up I and mine. Make no plans.

Let nothing of the past or future disturb you.

God is the sole doer and you are His child, His servant.

Your I and mine has no existence. It is all He, He alone.

Submit, resign, surrender yourself to Him.”