Every day, in each moment, the universe is giving us something. The difference between our being happy or unhappy is that we have preferences. The world offers pain and pleasure, joy and sadness. We cannot escape what we are given. We cannot change the way the world is in any given moment. Our having preferences only adds suffering—or joy—on top of our experience of what is given. When we get what we prefer, we suffer that we may lose it. When we get what we do not prefer we are in turmoil over what we believe we should have gotten.
The truth is that we can experience pain without suffering, and pleasure without the concern that it may end. But we must be willing to live in the moment. We must be willing to fully experience what we’re given without thoughts of the past or future. It’s only then that we can truly experience being alive.
Living in the moment is a practice that we take on so that we can fully experience being alive. The past is gone—there is no life there. There are only fleeting memories of moments that are no longer real. The future is yet to be created. What we seek to create in the future is given by how we are in the present moment. It makes no sense to live in the future. It makes no sense to live for the future.
The mind is a great tool for learning from the past and imagining the future. It’s not a place to live. The mind will allow us to glimpse into a past that was and a future that will never been. The mind will allow us to re-experience moments of both sadness and joy. We are the masters of our minds. We can choose our experience past, present and future.
We can have no experience of a world devoid of pain any more than we can experience a world without joy. We cannot experience the light without the darkness. We can only know love by also having the experience of its absence. But the mind tricks us into imagining these exclusions in extremes, so we long for a world where there’s no pain and live in fear of the possibility of a world where there’s no peace, all the time forsaking the experience of the moment.
All there is to do is to fully experience each moment, and to derive from each moment whatever is available on tap—the sorrow and joy—that we must have to feel truly alive. We are not the victims of our experience. We are not at the mercy of our circumstances. We are the creators! To fully live is to take on the responsibility for how we experience each moment. By choosing to fully experience what is given in each moment, both pain and pleasure, we choose to live fully and powerfully. We cannot choose what life will give us we can only choose how we receive it, with gratitude or with trepidation.