It is hard to live in the present. The past and the future keep harassing us. The past with guilt, the future with worries.
So many things have happened in our lives about which we feel uneasy, regretful, angry, confused, or, at least, ambivalent. And these feelings are often colored by guilt. Guilt that says: “You ought to have done something other than what you did; you ought to have said something other than what you said.” These “oughts” keep us feeling guilty about the past and prevent us from being fully present to the moment.
Worse, however, than our guilt are our worries. Our worries fill our lives with “What ifs”: “What if I lose my job, what if my father dies, what if there is not enough money, what if the economy goes down, what if a war breaks out?” These many “ifs” can so fill our mind that we become blind to the flowers in the garden and the smiling children on the streets, or deaf to the grateful voice of a friend.
The real enemies of our life are the “oughts” and the “ifs.” They pull us backward into the unalterable past and forward into the unpredictable future. But real life takes place in the here and the now.
Here and Now: Living in the Spirit
Background on Henri Nouwen