Friday, October 23, 2015

Planning for Tomorrow

- At the Desert Retreat House -

I just received an email inviting me to attend a "Planning for Tomorrow Conference,"  a day-long financial planning seminar, offering advice and strategies for assuring financial security in retirement.  

On one level, I guess it’s a good idea to be as financially prepared as possible for the “retirement years” of one’s life; but on the other hand this upcoming “Planning for Tomorrow Conference” also made me realize that we almost never get a break from preparing for the future. Even after you have retired, as you live into your later years of life you are somehow expected to be engaged in an endless process of “planning for tomorrow.”

The sad thing is that a lot of people run out of time and their days on earth are over before they even finish all the planning. 

As I think of it, throughout the better portion of most of my life, much of what I did was “planning for tomorrow.” In fact I think many if not most people in today’s culture are obsessed with and consumed by making plans for the future and developing strategies for the days to come.

When I was in parish ministry we were always strategizing for the future. I must have attended hundreds of meetings in which we sat for seemingly endless hours asking questions about how we might develop the church or the parish school: “Where do we see ourselves10 years from now?” The funny part of it is that ten years later, the world was so different that most of the plans we made were relatively useless. 

When we lived in Los Angles, I often found it somewhat humorous, if not disconcerting, to talk with parents of 4 year-old preschool children and discover that, not only were these parents squirreling away some serious money for their kids' "college fund,"  but they were also deciding on what high schools and colleges they wanted their children to eventually attend - talk about "planning for tomorrow," yikes!

While I can somewhat see the advantage of preparing for future directions in life, I am also very convinced that in many cases, all the future strategizing is often a useless drain of energy, robbing people of the joy of living every day. 

In some ways my guess is that this obsession with plotting an agenda for the future probably stems from our “egoic” need to be in “control. Somehow we convince ourselves that we have the ability to orchestrate the future, our planning for tomorrow allows us to believe that the days to come are in our hands and under our control.

The truth is that we really never have a "tomorrow." We can remember the past but we can't live in the past.  And when tomorrow comes it's no longer tomorrow - it is the present.  Everything I do or say or write or think today immediately becomes the past -over and done. There is no tomorrow. All I have is this moment, the present, the "now" in which to live fully.

Instead of planning for tomorrow, more and more I put my energy into living for today.
In my reading yesterday I came across a few poems that helped me focus on being here in the "now." The first poem is from the Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh. I often find the teaching of this unassuming monk to be so very powerful, so simple and yet so profound.
In his little poem, Journey, he writes:

Here are words written down -
footprints on the sand,
cloud formations.
I'll be gone.

This morning as I sit and reflect at the beginning of this new day, I look up at some beautiful little patches of white clouds lingering in the crystal blue morning skies of autumn in the desert.  They will soon be gone but I cherish them while they are here.

I also came across this poem yesterday:

Flapping, flapping, flapping
Not yet ready to fly.
Anchored by too many
doubts, fears, expectations.
The past is a chain
holding me down.
The future is a vision
not yet clear.
There is only today.
Today I will soar.

Today is the gift - I'm here "now."

Today I will soar. 


  1. Today I will soar. Beautiful. What a wonderful blog post to read and fully absorb. Thank you xxx

  2. While fully embracing your thesis, particularly when such planning becomes an obsession and detracts from living in the present, living fully in the "now" also requires responsibility for one's behavior and that in itself involves taking actionsmnow that will allow one to lead a fulfilling life in the future.

    1. Yes, thanks-- living the now in no way abrogates responsibility. I agree.