If you must look back, do so forgivingly.
If you will look forward, do so prayerfully.
But the wisest course would be to be present in the present gratefully.
These are some of my favorite words from Maya Angleou. They encapsulate, in part, the work I often do when I walk with both individuals and groups. That being, each of us have three days: yesterday – today – tomorrow.
Yesterday’s lens often has a view that is one of two landscapes: glory days or significant suffering. The glory days are often characterized as the best-of-times and a deep desire to return to them. Conversely, and often with complete justification, yesterday is viewed as – in a word – painful.
Tomorrow’s lens also often has a view of one of two landscapes: great possibilities or the end is near. The great possibility narrative suggests, “Hold on, tomorrow is going to be even better!” The counter narrative is, “I’m very concerned…things just keep getting worse and worse.”
The view to yesterday and tomorrow can actually be very helpful for today. If we can look with honest eyes in our rear view mirror we can experience both gratitude and healing. Being appreciative for our past blessings and accomplishments can serve as motivation for today. Being able to do so forgivingly then hopefully we can embrace, as theologian John O’Donohue offers, “May your heart never be haunted by ghost-structures of old damage.”
As somebody who swims in the deep end of visioning and innovation with folks I am acutely aware of the advantage – disadvantage paradigm of spending time in tomorrow’s waters. Taking the long view is critical for us to expand our capacity through imagination and wonder. Yet there is also significant risk of missing or avoiding the present: today.
I try to begin each day with the words from friend and colleague theologian John Philip Newell’s Celtic Psalter, “In the gift of this new day, in the gift of this present moment, let me be thankful, let me be attentive, let me be open to what has never happened before.” Reflective engagement with yesterday can most definitely bring light to today. Pondering and planning possibilities for tomorrow can bring creativity and hopefulness for today. All of which is part of what enhances the gift of this day, of this present moment. And as Maya Angelou reminds us, “…the wisest course would be to be present in the present gratefully.”
Life is short,
And we do not have much time
to gladden the hearts of those who
make the journey with us.
So… be swift to love,
and make haste to be kind.
And the blessing of God,
who made us,
who loves us,
and who travels with us
be with you now and forever. – Henri Frederic Amiel