Years ago, I received a life-changing email. I don’t know who forwarded it to me, but it was one of those that you take a short look at and then delete it immediately.
Luckily for me, I took a closer look.
It was about a man who suddenly died from a heart attack and left a caring wife behind. They had such beautiful plans for their lives, experiences they wanted to make, places they hoped to visit. Now none of this was possible ever again.
The passage from this email that I remember most was, “Take out your sterling cutlery and use it NOW. Don’t save it for ‘special occasions’, because the best time is NOW”.
This sentence symbolizes one of the most profound truths of life: Life is happening NOW, not tomorrow. Be happy NOW, not sometime in the future.
Why is understanding this truth so essential for our own happiness?
Because all of our unhappiness, and every negative thought and emotion that we associate with it, exists only in the nonexistent past or future.
Think about it.
What really causes your unhappiness?
Isn’t it always something that is in the past or future? For example, if you are suffering from a recent breakup or divorce, isn’t your pain mostly grounded on the thought that you cannot make it alone in the FUTURE? And isn’t it also caused by torturing memories from the PAST?
“Problems are mind-made and need time to survive. They cannot survive in the actuality of the Now.” – Eckhart Tolle
The NOW is really the place where happiness lies. Only there are we completely free of judgment.
Happiness is an inward state of being – it is independent of feelings, thoughts, judgements and circumstances.
Try it for a moment. Just be in the Now.
It’s not so weird and esoteric as you may think. All it means is to still your “monkey mind” that is constantly jabbering, and let the still and silent observer who resides deep inside of you observe this very moment.
Observe everything that is around you. Observe the sun, the clouds, the ground under your feet, the people around you and especially observe the feelings, judgements and thoughts you are having about those things.
Recognize that all these feelings, judgements and thoughts are NOT you. You are the silent and still observer listening and watching it all.
This is the REAL you, who is at peace and NOT troubled by the hopes for the future and errors of the past.
Acceptance of this moment, embracing Now as it is, is where true happiness lies.
This is a big lesson of life.
Eckhart Tolle is a spiritual teacher and author of the bestsellers, “The Power of Now” and “A New Earth”. He had an unhappy childhood, and suffered most of his life from anxiety and suicidal depression, until one day he had a profound experience:
“I couldn’t live with myself any longer. And in this a question arose without an answer: who is the ‘I’ that cannot live with the self? What is the self? I felt drawn into a void. I didn’t know at the time that what really happened was the mind-made self, with its heaviness, its problems, that lives between the unsatisfying past and the fearful future, collapsed. It dissolved. The next morning I woke up and everything was so peaceful. The peace was there because there was no self. Just a sense of presence or “beingness”, just observing and watching.”
In his book “The Power of Now”, Eckhart Tolle describes his process of transformation from despair to self-realization – a guide to spiritual enlightenment.
I think that the ability of blending out past and future is essential for living a happy life. As I already wrote some time ago, you can achieve that in many ways – mainly by shifting your awareness.
Of course, it is not possible to flip a switch and no longer be bothered by a troubled past, but you can go in small steps. Every day take a little one. Until one day you have a state of mind that allows you to be in the present and to enjoy things truly NOW.
So, get out the sterling cutlery and use it NOW! You always wanted to travel to Italy? Do it NOW! You want to show your partner that you love them? Do it NOW!
Because NOW is all there is. NO yesterday, NO tomorrow. Only NOW.