Just past the familiar opening phrases of serenity, courage and wisdom in Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer comes this statement:
Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time,
The prayer invites us to stay focus on the present , not to be trapped by past regrets or future anxieties. To live fully alive today, not drifting off to yesterday or tomorrow.
This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24)
“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matt 6:34)
I have struggled with this. I remember preparing for a wonderful vacation trip with my family, but even as I boarded the airplane, my mind raced ahead. In my mind’s eye I could see myself boarding the plane to return, the vacation over and done. I felt this wave of regret that the vacation would end, and it had barely begun! I was not living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at time. I had become anxious about tomorrow, not heeding Jesus’ warning. I was letting my mental thoughts race ahead to the completion, focused on how transient my week of vacation would be.
Yes, there is value in recognizing that all things in life, including vacation trips, are transient and impermanent. The old proverb, “all good things must come to an end” holds truth. But I was pushing away the enjoyment of the good with my future focus, unable to savor the gift of one day, one moment.
The practice of centering prayer (a form of mindfulness practice) has helped me recognize when my thoughts are running away from the present. The practice has taught me to simply see such wandering thoughts and feelings as “thoughts and feeling” that are not necessarily reality. In my vacation example, I could not predetermine how I would feel when I returned. Today if I were to encounter a similar thought/feeling as I boarded, I might respond, “Oh that is an interesting thought. I will be curious to see how I feel when I board to come home. But for now, I am here at the beginning of my vacation. I will find my seat and enjoy the novel I brought along to read.”
How do you find ways to live one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time?
Lord Jesus, help us to live in this moment with you.