Why Hope Only Lives in the Present
“The present moment dies every moment to become the past, is reborn every moment into the future. All experience is now. Now never ends.” ~Deepak Chopra
As we reflect on the past year (2014) and look forward to the new year (2015) with hope for a better future, I am reminded of the wisdom about hope by Julia Butterfly Hill, the environmental activist who lived in the Luna Redwood tree for 2 years to save it from its demise. She said, “It’s not hope about something in the future, it’s not about something later on, it’s about who I’m showing up as right here, right now every moment of every day, and that’s the only place hope lives.” Julia’s words are so powerful because she speaks about living fully in the present moment, which is when we have the possibility of changing our future for the better.
We always associate hope with the future — that if we can hope for tomorrow, we can bear the hardships of today. In such cases as tortured prisoners of war who survived by sheer hope for a better day, I can certainly understand why hope for the future can be a powerful mechanism for survival. However, in reality, hope only lives in the present because any thoughts about the future are experienced in the present moment by our minds. Any time we think about the unknown or uncertainty of the future, we create stress in our lives.
The biggest problem in having hope in the future is that our present moment becomes compromised where we “put off” living. We delay our happiness because when we hate our life today, we hope that it will get better tomorrow. Well, when do we start living; when do we start to feel fulfilled by our lives? If we always place hope in the future, we will never live today, which is all we ever have because the past is gone and the future is just a concept in our minds. So when hope for the future becomes a delay mechanism for our happiness, we perceive our current state of living as that of suffering and hardships.
Hope is directly related to the possibility of having a choice. Hope is when we feel that we can steer our own destiny by making choices, so when we have freedom to choose for ourselves, that is hope. As we only make our choices and decisions in the present moment and never make them in the future, hope can only live in the present, so hope for the future is really a fabricated illusion in our minds. When we shift our thoughts and energy about hope to here and now, we become focused in what is happening in the present, which is when we can take productive action, and the upshot of such actions creates the possibility of a better future.
One of the most common ways that we delay our happiness is when we hope for that great love in the future that may never come, so hope in the future just becomes wasted energy. If we shift our focus that hope exists now — that we can have great love now — then we have a choice in changing our behavior. Perhaps rather than seeking endlessly for that illusive love in bars, internet, etc., we become proactive by nurturing spiritual love within ourselves, which can be accessed 24/7. We do not have to wait for that “great love” when it already exists within our own divine souls. Once we nurture love for ourselves in the present moment, then the possibility of great love in the future outside of ourselves will heighten and magically appear. But if we keep hoping for that great love in the future, it may never come, so we just delay our happiness another day, another year, another decade, and, soon enough, when life passes us without love, we only have regrets on our deathbeds, which is the worst feeling in the world.
When we understand and accept that hope only exists in the present moment, we live in the present moment by taking bold actions that change the course of our future. By placing hope in the future, we are perceiving that our current situation in life is unfulfilling, so we take very little or no action because the present moment becomes contaminated by our depressed energy. Hope in the present moment brings us to a place where we can take productive actions that will yield productive results in the future, not just some hopeful dream or fantasy.
Hope is not in the distant future but in the immediate now, and we always have the freedom to choose hope now over hope in some unknown future. So let’s show up to the infinite possibilities of life by making hope here and now, because, as Julia Butterfly Hill said, that is the only place where hope lives.
By Moon Cho, Creator of Ying & Yang Living