Love naturally flows out of the present moment, which is the only moment that exists. The present moment is what is real. When we bring a memory from the past, a fantasy of the future, a fear, a judgment, or any other self-centered thought into the present moment, those thoughts draw us out of the present-moment reality, where love and the potential for happiness exist, and into the ego's world, which is a world of discontentment, judgment, striving, and desiring. All of the pain in the world is created by identifying with such thoughts. The antidote for this pain is simply moving into the present moment and out of our thoughts about life, about ourselves, and about others.
One of the main ways suffering is created is by hanging on to the past by thinking about it and telling stories about it. We hang on to painful events at least as much as we try to hang on to happy memories, even though there is nothing left to hang on to. The past is gone, and all we have is a memory of it--a thought. Is a thought the past? Can a thought change the past or re-create the past? No. A thought is impotent, powerless. But it's worse than that: When you bring a memory of the past into the present moment, your experience of the present moment is changed. You are no longer experiencing life purely, but colored by either the pain of the past or the longing for the past. When you do this, you won't be able to experience the joy, love, and peace that are available in the present moment.
When we are fully in the present moment instead of absorbed in our thoughts about the past or the future or thoughts about ourselves and how our life is going, life feels good, we feel happy and at peace. However, if we bring thoughts into this moment that cause us to feel unhappy and discontent with the present moment, we won't experience that inherent happiness and peace. We will think that our life isn't good, that happiness isn't available, when it is.
Thoughts create our unhappiness, not circumstances. This is one of life's great secrets. It is a secret because it seems like the opposite is true--that if we could just get circumstances to change, we would finally be happy. But that just isn't true. Happiness is a potential in any moment, and it is what we bring into this moment through thought that causes us to feel unhappy and discontent with life. Memories are some of the most common thoughts that rob our happiness, but even fantasies of the future do this, simply because they take us out of the richness and aliveness of the present moment and into a made-up reality. The mind's reality is a two-dimensional reality; it doesn't have the fullness, realness, aliveness, or depth of reality, and it never will, no matter how engrossed in a fantasy we become.
Happiness is not found in thinking, as fun as thinking can be sometimes. Absorption in thoughts about the past and the future and about ourselves is not really fun. We feel compelled to think about ourselves, our past, and our future, but just notice how contracted and tense these thoughts make you feel. Such thinking doesn't result in happiness, but confusion, worry, fear, stress, and discontentment.
Forgiving and forgetting the past allows us to stay in the present moment, to drop the memories and attempts at fixing the past or being right and just be here right now and see what life is offering now in this moment. Once you allow yourself to really experience the present moment, you discover that it has everything you have ever wanted. It has the peace, happiness, contentment, and even excitement that you long for. When we are in the moment, we experience the excitement and adventure of not knowing what is coming next, and we also experience the joy our Being feels in being alive and existing in this amazing universe. When you come into the present moment, you come into contact with the real you, with your Being, which is in love with life and enjoying it all!
Gina Lake is a spiritual teacher who is devoted to helping others awaken and live in the moment through her many books, online courses, and intensives. She is also a gifted intuitive with a master's degree in counseling psychology and over twenty years experience supporting people in their spiritual growth. Her website offers information about her books, free e-books, book excerpts, a free monthly newsletter, a blog, and audio and video recordings: Radical Happiness.com.