Monastic Strategies: Living One Moment at a Time

Monastic Strategies: Living One Moment at a Time March 6, 2021

Monastic Strategies: Living One Moment at a Time

Living One Moment at a Time

The year since last March has seemed, at different times, both like an eternity and almost no time at all. It is a challenge for us to recognize we are living one moment at a time.

Some of us feel as though time has stopped for us. We get up at the same time every day and do the same things until we go back to bed. Many of us have sacrificed the practices and celebrations in which we perceived meaning. We have not gotten together with family or friends, not experienced the spirit of Easter or Christmas.

Our lives have become a long stretch of “until we get back to normal,” or “until we can be vaccinated.”

Protecting ourselves and people we love from the pandemic has taken over our lives, and our calendars.

Most of us, at one time or another, have been overwhelmed by what our lives demand from us. It is as if the tools we use too measure years and months, weeks and days have melted away. We were used to living one day at a time, and now we live moment to moment, one moment at a time.

Our lives seem to be both moving more rapidly and slowing down.

Many of us focus our attention on the past. Either we regret mistakes we have made or wish we could live some past glory over again. Others of us try to push our way into the future. We fantasize about how great it will be or spend our days filled with anxiety or fear about it.

It is difficult for us to remember, particularly this year, we are living one moment at a time.

How do we pay attention to each moment without slipping into the past or the future?

Giving Our Attention to One Moment

The past meets the future in the present moment. Some of us say, “There is no time like the present.” It is literally true. There is actually no time other than the present.

We believe we remember the events we have experienced. The fact is our memories are based entirely on our perceptions rather than what actually happened to us. Our minds reinterpret our experiences in light of more recent insights and reflection. Our memories, even of emotionally dramatic events, do not accurately recall what happened.

If our memories are not accurate accounts of the past, how could our fantasies predict the future? The truth is the only clear events we experience are in the present moment. We are living one moment at a time.

Our lives are like series of bubbles. We pay attention, only for a moment, and then the bubble bursts and another moment emerges.

The present moment can be a very powerful place. Our experiences and insights in the present can transform our memories of the past and expectations of the future. The present is the only time we have a say in our perceptive, reflective processes.

When we practice contemplation, regardless of what form we follow, we consent to spiritual life being alive and active within us. Sitting still, giving our attention to one moment, helps us get out of our own way. Our stillness gives spiritual life opportunities to work within us.

We slow down our thinking and churning and feeling to enter a present moment. Our contemplative reflection allows us to enter a relationship with spiritual life in sacred stillness.

For those few minutes we recognize our lives are not primarily about working or producing or earning. We can set aside regrets and anxieties for one moment.

Savoring One Moment at a Time

It is a challenge for us to be awake and alive to the potential of each individual moment. We are easily distracted. It takes a lot of work to be attentive to the present, and working hard makes it difficult to be open.

Many of us were deeply asleep to ourselves for a long time. We lived to meet the expectations of others. As we began to wake up, we regretted we had wasted so much time and potential. We work hard to make sure we do not continue to make the same mistakes.

We often substitute anxiety about the future and continue to miss the wonders of living one moment at a time.

Slowly and gradually, we begin to learn the present is all we have. We are not able to change the mistakes we have made in the past and not able to avoid making new mistakes in the future.

The present is the only place we can truly be alive.

We need to learn ways to be awake and alive in each present moment. We need opportunities to pay attention without interruptions or distractions.

Each moment tells us its own story.

Reveling One Moment at a Time

True revelry, deep revelry, flows out of who we really are. Revelry begins with being honest about ourselves.

Each moment is a revelation. We do the hard work of overcoming our own defenses, of reacquainting ourselves with the person each of us has always been. As we recognize the selves we have always known, we appreciate who we truly are. We become more deeply ourselves, and recognize the joy of living authentically. The past and future recede and we revel in the present.

Each moment is an opportunity to revel in being true to ourselves and grow into who we are. We connect with the true selves around us.

I listen to the stories people are willing to share with me, and help them rediscover what brings them alive. I help people connect to others and share the life they are rediscovering in themselves.

On our darkest days, during our most challenging years, we are living one moment at a time. Each moment is a bubble filled with potential.

How will we practice living one moment at a time today?

When will we take time to savor one moment at a time this week?

[Image by John Loo]

Greg Richardson is a spiritual director in Southern California. He has served as an assistant district attorney, an associate university professor, and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is and his email address is

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