Presentivity
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Presentivity

How to Stop Worrying and Live in the Present Moment

By Carlos Briceño

So many people have died already. We are all doomed. Nothing will ever be the same again. Will I get sick? Am I going to die from this? Everyone is going stir crazy. They’ve cut my hours at work. I’m going to lose my job. Will I ever find a job once this is over? I’m scared. Will this ever be over? I’m lonely. Will we have to move in with family? I don’t want to go to the store. People walk too close to me in the aisles. I’m afraid to order from Taco Bell. What if a food prep worker has the virus?

Is this all a dream?

It can’t be a dream.

It feels too real.

Most of us adults do not understand the power of the present moment. We live in the past or project about the future, usually in fiercely fearful ways. We lose sight of the fact that we are not in control. We get so caught up in trying to have some semblance of control that our energies pour out as worries and preoccupations.

What can we do to calm down? How can we tame this huge tiger that wildly claws around in our minds, disrupting our sleep patterns, distressing our hopes and dreams, and denying us the peace and joy we always want in our lives?

As someone who has some knowledge in these matters — my eldest sister died at the age of 45 from cancer; my other sister died at the age of 59 when a 150-foot red oak tree, from a neighbor’s yard, fell on the car she was sitting in, in the driveway of her home, during a fierce storm, landing perfectly on top of the passenger side, where she was sitting, smashing her head, severing her spinal cord and killing her; and, as if all that wasn’t enough, my wife and 23-year-old daughter have both been diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, a horrific neurodegenerative illness that has been described as a combination of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease — so, yes, I have some knowledge about what it’s like to think about the past and worry about the future.

How I’ve coped is discovering the Sacrament of the Present Moment.

We all have something in common: we have the capacities to recognize, remember and tap into what we were like as children, that amazing time in life when the world was full of possibilities and nothing stopped our imaginations from exploding across our minds like a dazzling fireworks show. We rarely walked back then because only adults walked. We ran or skipped because we were on missions: to discover wonder and beauty and uncover and trip over the mysterious.

We never failed. We just tried something else. We fidgeted a lot. We loved to dance. We skinned our knees. We liked to get our hands dirty. Bugs fascinated us. We liked to jump on top of puddles. We were rainbows of thoughts and dreams, a kaleidoscope of cool, fun and laughter. We boomed with supersonic bursts of soul-filled energy. We defied gravity with our leaps and tumbles.

We asked question after question after question because knowledge was like cotton candy: we always wanted more. During visits to the beach, adults treated sand as something to be stepped on or brushed off, while we viewed it as glorious castles waiting to be built. We play-acted as princes, princesses, and superheroes because we were not content to be ordinary. We rolled down hills because we hated to stand still. We rode our bikes in a never-ending quest for freedom — freedom from rules, freedom from overbearing parents, freedom from the tyranny of homework and teachers.

We didn’t settle for just playing games; we invented them. We played hard but slept deeply — because we had lived during the day. We only saw today, so we lived it, fully, with no reservations, with great love, with the pure abandonment and playfulness of puppies. Life was our sandbox, our blank canvas. Life didn’t exhaust us; we exhausted it. And so, at night, when our heads hit our pillows, we slept the deep sleep of those with no regrets.

When we were children, we clicked on all cylinders because we didn’t know any better. And now, as adults, we are overflowing with stuff that constantly explodes our minds, such as knowledge, wisdom, fears, worries, nightmares, responsibilities — you know, all the stuff that comes with dealing with a pandemic. How do we access that ability to be so present again?

Here are some suggestions: Relax and heighten your senses. Smile. Give thanks. Focus on what is going on now, in front of you. Pray. Trust in God’s Divine Providence and mercy. Listen deeply. Be patient. Be kind. Learn to die to yourself; or, as St. Francis de Sales put it: “Ask for nothing; refuse nothing.” Don’t worry about failing. Laugh. Accept what is happening as God’s will, and His will is your path to heaven. Remember what it felt like to ride a bike and feel the wind on your face. Watch the clouds for a while. Really, really look at a flower. Open yourself up to receive God’s love. Reach out to others who are lonely or hurting.

When a thought from the past or a worry about the future comes to you, gently put the brakes on and bring yourself to the present, to give thanks for what is going on now, in that moment, and know that whatever is going on is your path to holiness — if you accept it with joy.

If you are able to do all that, then the rewards are great. Here is how Father Jean-Pierre de Caussade, the author of the book, Abandonment to Divine Providence, puts it:

“The present moment is always full of infinite treasure. It contains far more than you can possibly grasp. Faith is the measure of its riches: what you find in the present moment is according to the measure of your faith. Love also is the measure: the more the heart loves, the more it rejoices in what God provides. The will of God presents itself at each moment like an immense ocean that the desire of your heart cannot empty; yet, you will drink from that ocean according to your faith and love.”

Whatever is going on, good or bad, God is there, in the tiniest of moments and details. It’s up to us to accept His will in each of those moments, with joy, and that acceptance becomes the ultimate viral action, because it has repercussions for you and your soul and those you encounter far beyond what you can ever have imagined.

All this is not easy for adults, which is why we need to channel the mindsets we had when we were children, when we were as free as snowflakes gliding through the air because we were so full of trust — in the world, in God, in adults, and with our innocence.

In his book, Father de Caussade wrote about that level of trust this way:

“Throw yourself into the arms of God and remain there peacefully and without care, like a little child in the arms of a good and loving mother. Whoever knows how to make use of this practice will find in it a treasure of peace and of merit. Try to act thus about everything and at all times and to adopt somewhat of this interior spirit.”

This mindset requires a lifetime of practice. In return, you will discover what children realize very naturally: that trusting God and being in the present moment doesn’t just make life better — it is what makes us fully alive.

To learn more about the Sacrament of the Present Moment, go to https://sotpm.design.blog.

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