Contemplation: Living in the Present Moment

Only the present moment is real and available to us. The peace we desire is not in some distant future, but it is something we can realize in the present moment."  --Thich Nhat Hahn, Interbeing, 5.

The need to live in the present moment with full awareness is a common theme in world religions. Hindu, Taoist, Jewish, Moslem, Christian, and other teachers urge us to make the most of every day as an opportunity that will not come to us again. Christian Scripture tells us:

Isaiah 43:18-19 Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.
Psalm 118:24 This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Matthew 6:34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Matthew 3:2 Repent for the kingdom of heaven is now at hand.

Many spiritual writers have long emphasized the importance of living in the present moment:

The moment is all that matters; the present moment is of supreme importance. Malcom Boyd—“Are you Running with me Jesus” 20.

Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul. Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation, 14

God is creating the whole world now in this instant. Meister Eckhart, (Walshe, No. 18, p133)

Mindfulness is the practice of becoming fully aware of each moment and one’s experience of that moment. Jerry Braza, Moment by Moment: The Art and Practice of mindfulness, xiii.

So what does living in the present moment look like? How do we practice living in the presence of God RIGHT NOW? Why is it so difficult? Or, perhaps, we might feel that God may very well be present, but God is not present for me. (William Apel, Witness Before Dawn, 49).

Granted, we may need to reflect constructively on some of our past and plan sensibly for the future. However, many of us allow our minds to perseverate on the past or obsess about the future. The approach of living in the present moment is so much more than an activity of the mind – rather it is an approach tied to experience that has its roots in awareness that includes mind, body and spirit. Here are some recognized practices designed to help us become more aware and to experience the present moment more deeply:

1.      Trust in the divine indwelling - encompassing all people, all beings, and all events.
2.      Realize that every moment, no matter how apparently trivial, is an opportunity – a moment of grace.
3.      Cultivate awareness – Engage in one thing at a time, and do it slowly and deliberately.
4.      Use your senses – be aware of what you see, hear, touch, smell, and taste.
5.      Put spaces between things so as to rest in what has been done, offer a prayer, and to establish a readiness for the next thing.
6.      Be aware of your thinking and when thoughts prevail gently bring your mind back to what’s happening in the present moment.
7.      Devote your full attention to what’s on right now whether it is listening to another person or simply being open to receive whatever may come to you from the current situation.
8.      Develop a regular schedule of meditation so that the practice of sitting in silence and trying to live in the present moment become a way of life for you.

Closing Prayer: Divine Mercy in My Soul, Notebook 1 (1) - St. Faustina Kowalska

O My God,
When I look into the future, I am frightened,
But why plunge into the future?
Only the present moment is precious to me,
As the future may never enter my soul at all.

It is no longer in my power to change, correct or add to the past;
For neither sages nor prophets could do that.
And so what the past has embraced I must entrust to God.

O present moment, you belong to me, whole and entire.
I desire to use you as best I can.
And although I am weak and small,
You grant me the grace of Your omnipotence.

And so, trusting in Your mercy,
I walk through life like a little child,
Offering You each day this heart
Burning with love for Your greater Glory.


St. Faustina Kowalska — From her Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul, Notebook 1 (1);