It’s easy for us to dwell on the past, rather than live in the present.
We may think of happy times and want to live again in those simpler, long gone days. Or the memories are sad or painful ones. We may think about someone who abused us, or occasions when we hurt others. We wonder what we could have done or said to avoid the hurt, or what we did to provoke the abuse.
We need to realize these things happened in a different time and to other people; the past is, indeed, a foreign country in that sense.
But we should not try to expunge the past either. Memories of past mistakes can help us grow into better people today. When times are hard, we can use the happy memories of the past to encourage us that things can get better.
Today’s Meditation: Are there parts of the past that I am trying to live today?
Today’s Action: I will list ten ways that I am different from the me I remember in the past.
We have to assume that tomorrow the sun will rise, that electricity will work when we turn it on, and that water will flow downhill. These are assumptions, but they are reasonable ones because the alternative would be a paralysis of indecision.
But there are the assumptions we make about ourselves and others, and these can lead to difficulties.
We met a stranger and based on the flimsiest of information, made assumptions about their character and who they are. To some extent this is inevitable, we have a human need to categorize people that we meet as friend or foe, colleague or adversary, supporter or detractor.
But it is important to remember that this is just an assumption, not fact. We have to be able to change that assumption as more is known, to give ourselves the opportunity to learn how our assumption may be wrong.
Today’s Meditation: What am I assuming I know, without even realizing it is an assumption?
Today’s Action: Today I will not take for granted that I know the answer to everything, but will test at least one assumption I have made.
Sometimes we focus too much on what we can’t do. We look at others doing this job or living that lifestyle, and we wish we were able to do that.
But we are all, in our own individual ways, able to do things that others are not; we all have our abilities. When we build a robot, we give it the ability it needs for the job it is made to do, and nothing else. But we humans are created differently. We are not built for just one particular task, but rather to find our way through life meeting the challenges of the day as they come. We all, without exception, have unique abilities.
Some people have an outstanding ability in a particular subject, and they excel in this area to the astonishment of all around them. But for most of us, our abilities are more modest but nonetheless significant. We may or may not be geniuses, but we all have unique abilities.
Today’s Meditation: Do I underplay my abilities by comparing myself to others?
Today’s Action: Today I will understand that I can do the thing right in front of me. I may not do it in the same way as anyone else, but I will do it my way.
At first sight, it may appear that we need reasons to be happy. We get a promotion at work, someone says how nice we look, our partner does something particularly kind.
Looking deeper it is apparent that even if everything is going well, we are still able to create thoughts and worries that will rob us of our happiness. On the other hand, we can sometimes be happy in spite of, rather than because of the external circumstances of our life.
Happiness is always an option. Looking at the positive is not a case of ignoring the realities of life, rather it is looking at the deeper realities, underlying the things we see on the surface.
Today’s Meditation: If happiness is truly an inside job, then I have all I need to be happy.
Today’s Action: Today I am willing to be happy, and I will actively look for ways of expressing that happiness.
We like to label feelings and try to hold on to all the pleasant ones and get rid of the less good. But all feelings start inside us, and should not be considered in this black and white way.
To want only the good is a manifestation of self will run riot. They are a sign that we are trying to run the world, rather than accept our place in it. The truth is that all feelings are transient, here now, and then changed in the next moment.
When we get the sensation of pain when touching a hot stove, the feeling is not “wrong,” even though it hurts us. The pain serves to teach us a valuable lesson about stoves. It is the same with emotional feelings. We can learn as much, often more, from the feelings that hurt us.
Today’s Meditation: Feelings are precious; we have them for a reason.
Today’s Action: I will look at what my feelings and what causes them. What can I learn from hurts so that I do not have to repeat the lesson?
Many of us feel that we have to know all the steps in a task, before taking the first one. This cautious approach can sometimes be appropriate, but most of the time it restricts us in finding our own unique path in life.
We have to start from where we are, rather than from some ideal place where we feel safe and in control. But all we need to do is take that next step, the one that is right in front of us. It is just the next right thing that we are concerned with, not all the other actions that may be needed.
When we do that next action, we will find that what looked impossible before is now a step closer. By taking each “next right thing” in order, we achieve something that we might have once thought was impossible.
Today’s Meditation: In thinking about my path so far, I will remember those times I started without knowing the final outcomes.
Today’s Action: I will not put off until tomorrow something that I can start today.
In our daily communication with other people, we often don’t really get to know each other. Every word we hear, every expression we see, is filtered through the screen of our own experience. Our constant thought, either consciously or unconsciously, is “what do they really mean by that?”
It is true that people do not always say what they mean. It is also true that we are very bad mind readers. If we are positive, we assume that everyone wants us well, but if we are gloomy, we think that people are out to get us. The truth lies somewhere between the two extremes.
A better approach is to listen to others and also to our inner thoughts and feelings and to strike a balance as best we can between our perception and the truth.
Today’s Meditation: When do I listen to what people say, and when do I hear what I think they mean?
Today’s Action: I will actively listen to what people say, and not assume I know what they mean.