Dr. Arthur Chang, author of “The New Positive Spirituality: Finding Purpose and Happiness in Everyday Life,” defines positive spirituality as the practice of positively embodying God’s attributes of love and law and using them in our lives to bring our desires into physical reality.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021



By Rev. Dr. Arthur Chang


Presently, “Be in the moment,” is a fashionable Buddhist saying. Equally popular is the more poetic version, “The past is history, the future is a mystery and the present is a gift; that is why it is called the present.” For reducing anxiety and for better focus on an immediate task, these sayings can be powerfully useful. Perhaps for those reasons, a good insight can run amok when we reflexively generalize it to every occasion. For example, to say, “Don’t live in the past,” or “Don’t be influenced by the past,” does not mean the past is irrelevant. Our past is to us as the great library of Alexandria was to ancient learned minds. “Knowledge is Power,” says Sir Francis Bacon, and the past represents our storehouse of knowledge. The Buddha underscores the relevance of the past by saying, “All that you are is the result of all you have thought.” This is not limited to ideas, but includes our perception of our actions. Furthermore, Aristotle says, “You are what you habitually do.” Our habits are the skills and knowledge we use to develop our talents into strengths, which make them available in the present moment. A strength is the ability to provide consistent, near perfect performance in a given activity. All we have in the present moment for determining our best action are gifts from our past.

Yet, how easily we can diminish the crucial importance of the past by associating it mostly with things undesirable or obstacles in our way toward a better future. As an iceberg’s greater volume is beneath the surface of the sea, so is our reality more past than present. According to Process Thinkers, reality comes in droplets. This means it comes into being and immediately perishes. This is based on the discoveries of quantum physics. Our minds cannot detect this change or process any more than, in watching a moving picture, we can detect the discrete fixed frames of unmoving pictures run at a certain speed to give the illusion of movement. Thus is the illusion of the present being continuous.

By not understanding that the present moment is like an undetectable flash of time before it becomes the past, we may assume everything we are doing today is the present and yesterday’s activities are the past. If so, we may be living in a continuous illusion, not appreciating that the past is the womb of the present.

Yet, as fleeting as the present is, it is our awareness of our reality that can reset the past for more favorable support in creating our future. Here, Mind is the actor. Mind interprets the present moment and calls upon our past (our knowledge and experience) for relevant insights for surviving and thriving.

Life is a holistic endeavor and, although there is value in breaking down our perspective of time into past, present and future, our reality includes this as a total system acting as one. By such means we will find our most harmonious relationship to this web of existence we call reality. Thus, although our lives are mostly our past, it does not make the essential spark of awareness called the present less important. It makes it a part of a whole--a system that is at its best when it works actively as past, present and future.