Sunday, June 27, 2010

Finding Perfection in the Present

It seems that we spend time in two of three places. We either are in the past relishing the days gone by, often referred to as the glory days, wanting to return to a bygone era and time. Or, we are focused on tomorrow. It might sound a little something like the following:

"When I lose some of this cellulite, I am going to be so happy."
"I wish I were still in college. That was so much fun."

"Can't wait until I graduate!"
"Why didn't I take math."

"My wedding is in six months. The honeymoon will be great."
"I should have left that fool alone years ago."

The place that we seem to want to spend the least amount of time is in the present.

When we do stop to think about and experience the present, our time there is not really well spent. If we are not relishing the past, we're regretting our actions, words or experiences of our pasts. All of which can color and tinge the flavor of today leaving a nasty, residual aftertaste on the palate of our current experiences.

A key part of finding perfection in the present is embracing gratitude and releasing entitlement. Gratitude is when you are thankful and appreciative of what you have and are experiencing. Entitlement is the expectation that just because you are you, you are supposed to have certain things and experiences.

I always talk about not having expectations of other people when it comes to your own happiness and your life. Entitlement is having expectations of the power of the Universe, the world around you, to provide you with certain experiences, opportunities or material things.

But wait, how do you have and reach goals and attain dreams and wants that are neither tainted by your expectations of other people or by feelings of entitlement - those feelings that communicate that you better get what you want?
So, how do you do this?

The balance or middle ground is genuine gratitude. By all means, ask for what you want. Ask for what you need. Set your goals and pursue your dreams. Remember, just because you request something, that doesn't mean you will get it. If that is how you feel, that you better get what you asked for, then you are feeling a sense of entitlement.

Entitlement and expectation both can set you up for disappointment. The disappointment you experience may be bitter and eventually you will be, too.

A while back, I had an opportunity to go back to Japan during a program of study. The price was very inexpensive and it was a chance to visit a part of Japan of which I had never visited. Since I joined the program late, there were two other people vying for a place. We had to participate in a kind of lottery. There was only one spot available.

Instead of crossing my fingers, legs and whatever else that twisted and souring my stomache with worrying until the decision was made, I was thankful and happy that I was even being considered. Sure, I wanted to go, otherwise I would not have placed my name in the hat for the opportunity. Gratitude helped me stay firmly planted in the present.

I didn't go to the past with, "I never win anything. Every time I try something like this I never get it." Nor did I go the entitlement route, "I never ask for anything, I better get this. I deserve this."

I didn't go to the future with, "If I don't get this, I am going to be so disappointed." Nor did I go the other route, "Something has got to happen to me. If I don't get this I am not going to try for anything else in the future ever again."

I stayed in the present. I figured if the opportunity were meant for me it would happen. When I got the call confirming that I would be going, the deliverer of the message seemed to be disappointed by what he perceived as my lack of enthusiasm, or a lack of 'gratitude' for the opportunity. I told the person I was very grateful for the opportunity.
I was at peace with whatever would be decided. I really wanted to go, don't get me wrong.

When I won the opportunity, it did not rock my world either way. You see, gratitude kept my feet firm and my world steady. So whatever were to come to pass would be just like a gentle windkissed breeze upon my cheek, light with little or no impact upon my life.

Gratitude works double duty. It can keep us steady when we experience the inevitable sad, unfair, bitter and/or painful moments in life, as well.

Years ago I read a book by Norman Vincent Peale. He wrote on the topic of self help through the power of positive thinking. He said, "If something is truly meant for you, it won't pass you by." At the time I liked the quote and kept it stored in my heart and mind for safekeeping. Now when I think about this quote, it is my definition of gratitude.

What I mean by this is that if the desires, dreams, hopes and goals that you have are meant for you, they will not pass you by. They may not manifest in the way that you have envisaged, but that does not make the attainment of them less valuable or satisfying.

In the meantime, stop regretting what has come and gone, which is the past. You don't have to hold off living until you reach some undefined or even defined point later in your life, which is the future. Stand in the present, throw your head back, fling your arms wide open and splay and spread the fingers and thumbs on your hands far and apart. Welcome and embrace the present with outstretched arms. Create a space and place for it, every day.

Find perfection in the present. Envelope and immerse yourself in genuine gratitude. Be thankful for who you are, what you got, where you've been and where you are going. This will allow you to be steadfast on your path. It will help you to enjoy the life, the moment that is guaranteed by the breath you are taking right now, for all that it is and all that it has to offer.

Each day, string the pearls of your life moment by moment so that when you are done, whether it be over in a long period of time or it end abruptly and early, you will know that you have enjoyed your life at the moment you experienced it, in the perfection of the present.
Thus, no matter when you are done figuratively and literally, the world can behold the beautiful pearl pathway built and left behind by the moments of your life. That bejeweled pathway will not be a mere token of superficiality, but a guidepost for the world so it too can find perfection in the present, through your life and apply it to the life it currently owns.

In gratitude, beautify yourselves bit by bit today. Enjoy your life right now.