Jonathan Cainer's Zodiac Forecasts

Past - Present - Future
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A big thank you to everyone who wrote.

Jonathan started a whole new ball rolling on Tuesday February 19 when he wrote about a letter from a regular reader:
"Dear Jonathan, Having sent this letter to you, it is now in my past. As you read it, it immediately goes into your past. Prior to writing it was in my future - and yours too. So when is it in our present? It seems to me that we all live on the cusp of the past and the future. The present hardly exists. So why are we so bothered about it?"
I received this letter some while ago from Pete Perry in Stevenage. I am still not quite sure how to reply. Any ideas?
We have been inundated with your replies. Here is an edited selection from the hundreds of you who took the trouble to write.

Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.

"Time" is a loop. It’s not linear, with a neat "beginning, middle, end." Or, maybe, if you want it to, it DOES. Solipsists believe, philosophically, that perhaps nothing exists outside the consciousness of each individual. Zen Buddhists have some hilarious and inspiring stuff to think, or "not think" about concerning this stuff... But really, the "present" is called "The Present," because it’s a gift. Thanks for inspiring a nice little journey here...
I found this inscription on a sun-dial: "On this moment eternity is hinged." That seems to simplify it a bit!
Jeanette, Clitheroe, England
Your correspondent is getting lost in the detail and missing the message, perhaps deliberately. As a Buddhist, "being present in the moment " is something we are constantly encouraged to do. It means to keep in mind that the past is over and, whilst it may have taught us valuable lessons, it rarely if ever repeats itself down to the last detail. So we should never try to respond in a way that fits the old scenario perfectly - for it is no longer applicable.
Likewise, living only for the future is self-defeating for the future has not yet coalesced from the strands that will one day come together and those that will fail to materialise. To live permanently attached to possible outcomes is to live in a state of inevitable disappointment - like people who pin all their hopes of happiness on winning the lottery.
Living in the moment is perhaps better expressed as living today as if it were your last. Smell the flowers, stop and listen to the birds sing, part from your loved ones in a way that they know you love them. Do today only those things for tomorrow that are likely to be for the good of all people and creatures. Speak the truth kindly, but speak it: confront wrong when you encounter it and do not worry about what that may mean tomorrow, and above all relax in the knowledge that the Universe that created you, loves and respects you as an important part of itself.
We have to train ourselves to focus on the present, and it doesn’t come easy. When we are doing something, we are concurrently planning what we’re going to do next or tomorrow, or thinking about what someone did yesterday. We push the present away from ourselves.
Pete Perry will only find his present by teaching himself to focus the mind and thoughts down and down into each current moment in time. Learn to just BE. Try this. You’re out for a walk. You’re surrounded by the beauty of fields, hill, trees, the sky. You’re probably deep in thought; pondering; going over things in your mind. You notice what’s around you but you’re not living it. Stop. Stand. Clear away your thoughts. Look. Just be in the moment. Discover how wonderful it feels to be in your present.
How about, ‘Seize the moment before it becomes history’. Life is all about appreciating each minute and second before it is gone. The present is now - the future is unimportant and the past is history....
Michele, England
As he was writing the letter, that was the present moment. A fabulous book to read about living in ‘the now’ is The Power Of Now by Eckhart Tolle.
Shelley, Sydney, Australia
Talk about looking for something that’s right under your nose! The past does not exist, it has gone. The future does not exist, it has not yet arrived. We exist only in the present, in this very moment. This is what all the masters have been here and now!
May I quote part of a James Taylor song, Secret Of Life:
"The secret of life is enjoy the passage of time." So, don’t think about what will happen, or has happened. Live it! People usually think about the bad things in life and dread them. Unless it’s life and death, endure it! Trouble and stress are experience in work clothes. What won’t kill you will make you stronger (allegedly ...)
‘Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future - concentrate your mind on the present moment’.
I love this quote from Buddha. I am not a follower of Buddhism but this always reminds me to stop dwelling on what cannot be changed and concentrate on what I have learned at present and what next I can achieve and look to so therefore the past is not as important as once seemed.
Lynda, Glasgow
Good points Pete. As, I think, Nils Bohr once said, in deep truths the opposite is also true (i.e. That life is ‘only’ a series of connected moments or nows). The future is only a construction - if you had thought of writing the letter but decided not to, it was a potential future when you thought of it, and not so if you hadn’t sent it, or if it had got lost in the post, or Jonathan hadn’t read it, or ....... - in each moment of ‘now’ you can imagine many possible futures, but you don’t have complete control over what will happen. The same with the past. Once something has happened it’s very difficult to get anyone to agree on ‘what really happened’. All of our memories are coded as patterns and emotions, not videotapes, so what we remember depends on how we are in the moment we try to remember. Listen to almost any debate, on radio, TV, in Parliament, and listen to people taking partisan views about how they view the past, and what they want in the future - very few of them are ‘present’ enough to want to work together to fix things as they are now.
Oh no, That’s what I thought when I typed it 2 minutes ago, but do I still agree with myself now ........??
The Chinese believe that all energies are constantly changing - yin to yang, present to past, hate to love and so on. It is this understanding that helped many ancient Chinese scholars cope with turbulent changes. They also, according to the I-Ching, believe that the ancestors, who sit above all time in the after-life cast die, and decide our fate. And if something truly great or bad is to occur they can warn us. (Deja-vu, premonition etc.)
I believe that there is only one constant - that is the present. Think of it like a chemical reaction. The future is potential energy, bound tightly waiting to happen, waiting to explode. The past is the fallout of this spent energy. The present is the chemical reaction, when the potential energy of the future and the observances of the past are mixed with the unpredictability of human beings and life here on earth. Like a chemical reaction... there is always the same amount of energy, it is only its form which changes - Past, Present or Future. And because all things change and become each other - yin to yang - History does seem to repeat. The sky will always change and back again, and the earth will always turn, Night to day, Life to death. Sunset to Sunrise.
Where do you dig them up from? The Buddhists call this wrong view. We are only ever in the present, nothing else exists. The past is a figment of our imagination/memory as is the future. The only reality one can ever know, is the Here and Now. This is what is meant by the wise folk of the world when they refer to ‘waking’ up (i.e. realising that one has been stuck in the imagination and memory, and missing out on the reality of the now). Try it, it’s quite amazing. Full conscious awareness in the present moment. (there is lots of stuff on the web about this, but Dr Charles Tarts is a good one:
The present is the exact moment you are in. We all want to know our future so we are looking there, we all see things in our past that we either regret or enjoyed, so we dwell there. But the only time you can do good is the second that you are living now, make the most of it. The majority of people have their minds elsewhere and miss the creativity of the now.
Wendy, Australia
Pete Perry misses the point, I am afraid. Like I spent most of my life doing! As you read his letter, you are in your present. This moment of the present, according to many Eastern and African spiritual philosophies, is the MOST important moment - how to live IN and fully comprehend and rejoice in THIS present, precious moment...and THIS one, and THIS one. It is the way we live the present that affects our future. If you doubt yourself in the moment that he questions you, for example, the Universe will respond to that self doubt and make a future based on that present self belief. Pete needs to live in the NOW, as I am trying to in the now has coloured my entire future...and allowed my past to hurt me no longer.
Surely this chap could not even write this letter if he wasn’t, for that moment, in the present, formulating those thoughts. Yes, when the letter left his box it was in the past for him, but it became present for you (Jonathan) as you read it, even if what he had written was history.
The present is in the doing, but it helps to be present in the doing! The present is so important because what we do, or not, will shape our future and be the legacy of our past. What would we like that to be? The answer to that question will help determine how present we are in what we do, what we say, what we create in our lives.
The present is all we have, transient though it is. We’ve had the past, we may not have the future. Let’s treat every second as if it’s our last and try to enjoy it without worrying about what’s gone or fretting about what may be to come. Let’s face it - NOW is all we are guaranteed on this earth!
Whilst focusing on the past and the future, the present slips away. These perplexing questions which haunt us all from time to time are in themselves a waste of the present. They simply conjure more questions, which keep your mind focused on things other than the present. However, life is a waste of time. So why not waste it in a fun way?
It is precisely because the present is just a fleeting instant that it should be honoured. All we have is the NOW - the past has happened (we can do nothing about it) and the future has yet to happen (and we do not know if we will be around to see it). It is only in the now that we can live in the freedom of wanting nothing. It is only in the now that we live because we can neither truly live in the past or the future. NOW, not an instant ago, not in an instants time, NOW.
I think that people are not concerned with the Present. People are either preoccupied with the past or the future. Happiest are those who really do live ‘in the moment’. It is an art-form, the present is a fleeting moment.
I totally disagree that the present ‘hardly exists’ (as Pete Perry mentioned). In my opinion the present is a constant. When something has happened, it becomes the past. When something is yet to happen, it becomes the future. But everything which happens NOW, is present. If as Pete suggests, the letter you read immediately goes into your past, then why couldn’t it also be in your future as you may go on to read it again. The present is what happens as it happens, and is more real than the past or future can ever be.
Only by paying attention to the present that we can have a past that we can look back on with a smile and a future we can walk in to with hope knowing that we put some effort into the present, which was its foundation....
The minds of human beings are always in the past and the future, looking back and looking forward. Physically, though, all things that exist, humans included, are in the present. That’s what makes humans such clever-clogs: the ability to analyse the past and plan for the future.
It’s only when we really learn to let go of everything - to truly relax and let things flow, living in Now and letting it be - that we begin to see ourselves, and the rest of the universe, as it really is: to see it without wishful thinking or the magic of retrospect. We are in now; and the past and future are, to all intents and purposes, inside our heads: they are only viewpoints from where we stand, always in now, as past and present pass us by, as landmarks on our way through life.
Ian, Middlesbrough, England
We experience the present by going within, in the moment, and being/feeling/experiencing. One can bring up a memory of the past or project something into the future. Still, even in those moments, what is one experiencing when going within, right now. Do you really want to begin to understand the present, check out the book, The Power of Now by Eckard Tolle. You will see that when we are into analysing, judging or critiquing we have lost the power of the present moment. It is only when we are fully present that we understand its power.
Sue, Rochester, NY, USA
Dear Pete, if you had not written that letter in your "present" to Jonathan it would not exist in your future or your past. Now it touches me who was not aware before you existed at all. Present has the memories and wisdom of the past and seeds of the future.
The reason the present is of such great significance, and why we place so much emphasis on it is because it is the one thing we can always participate in, and we do have some degree of control over. The past, besides being over, provides insight that we may apply to the present. The future, no offence to your profession, is something we cannot see. Even the greatest guides and forecasts only give insight, they do not dictate events. Therefore, we can only live in the moment, and when in doubt, that is probably the only time that absolutely matters. We may die tomorrow, but if we make the most of the moment we have, however minute that moment is, we may still die happily knowing we did everything we could with our moment in time. Our past, our history must never be forgotten because it is important, it has made us who we are. We must balance the weight we place on the past and on the future, neither obsessing nor ignoring either. Yet the moment we are in provides us the opportunity to reflect upon the past, and put the knowledge that we gain into action to create our future.
Zen Buddhism teaches that the past is an illusion and the future is a dream. All we can experience is the present moment. Try to touch a tabletop in the past or in the future. Doesn’t work very well, does it ;)
Terry, USA
We do tend to frame time in different ways and often delude ourselves in the process. Lunch time seems to pass like a shot, when you’re young, life seems to be endless, when you’re old, time’s too short. The problem deepens when we consider the language we use. We talk about football teams that "play away" -the present simple tense- next Friday (the future)! We also say things like " I saw Tim just now." Which really means in the same present we all believe we share; a present that’s around now, but includes the past and the future when seen as a present fact; the team I support do play away next Friday & I did see Tim just now! So, we divide "the now" into convenient, understandable, manageable, periodic segments. Which is just as well really, after all when asked to write a letter "now" or go shopping "now" nothing would ever get done.
Pete’s problem is perceptual. Philosophically speaking, it can be argued that both the past and the future are mental concepts, and do not exist, except in the mind. Actually, all we have to ‘work with’ is the present, moment by moment. Which is why the sages counsel us to always be aware of the ‘now’, and to live in a ‘true present’, lest we miss our own lives completely!
Yvonne, Australia
Pete Perry is in danger of disappearing up his own metaphysical conundrum. If this reasoning makes him feel better about a ‘present’ that is unpleasant, then go for it. You can prove anything with statistics and you can obviously prove anything with philosophy. It all boils down to the fact that, for ever how short a time, my experiences are in the present. Something cannot just jump from past to present, there obviously had to be a now at some point. Instead of living on the cusp of the past and the future we are always living in the present. It is the present that becomes the past and shapes the future, that’s why we worry about it.
Eva, Australia
"It seems to me that we all live on the cusp of the past and the future. The present hardly exists. " That’s why it’s called the present only lasts a "moment"...but if we could keep ourselves out of the past and out of the future...we could spend our lives in the present....which would then be ALL that exists.
"So why are we so bothered about it?" I believe we all know deep inside that the choices we make in the present will soon be in our past...and you can’t change the past. Similarly, the choices we make in the present form our future. Thus, the present is a most precious gift....we are "bothered" because we know of its power.
Ann, Wisconsin, USA
Of course the present is worth "bothering over"! Even if it is short-lived, it occupies the moments that are the culmination of our hopes, dreams, and efforts--the very things that become our greatest memories and learning experiences. How we think, feel, and behave in the present at least partially determines our future.
If we were to dismiss the present as almost non-existent, then we are not forced to take responsibility for our actions. And that would create a very pathetic world, indeed.
Carolyn, Edmonton, Canada
‘The present’ is the moment of action which creates the past as well as affecting the future. The future is only potential but the present moment is our opportunity to shape the future. So every thought and action and word we use ‘now’ is important because we can’t change what we’ve done but we can change what we do.
The thing I like best about ‘now’ is that it goes on and on - there is always an opportunity to change your life or your way of thinking. Whatever the past has been there’s always a chance to create a new in now - or a new now!
Aquarian Lizzy
As a child I used to play a game of ‘here comes the future, now it’s the present, and now it’s the past’. Just by speaking, bringing words from the future to the present and then on to the past. The future and present are forever coming and going. I think we hold on to a present just so we don’t go insane thinking about the coming future.
Carol, Ontario, Canada
There is only the present. Nothing else really exists outside the now. You can remember yesterday You can imagine tomorrow You can only experience now.
As Gary Zukav wrote in The Dancing Wu Li Masters, "...the present is the intersection of the past and the future". Accordingly, the concept or idea of "being present" would give us a window on all that has been and that which will be. The present is the cross roads of life where all things happen.
Greg, SC, USA
To be in the "present" is to "be" in a state of "being." To be in the past, one must "do" something. That is generally to conjure feelings of remorse and guilt - two very destructive states of feeling. To be in the future, one must "do" something also. One must put oneself in a state of fear over things yet to come - perhaps even more destructive. The NOW is really all we have. Mr. Perry contends that to be in the present is to be "Nowhere." I think to be in the present is to be "Now Here." When I am now here, there is nothing wrong in my world. So the question is, Mr. Perry, how do you see yourself? Are you a human doing or a human being. In one state you wage wars that exist only between your ears, in the other, an opportunity to attain bliss on an ongoing basis.
Tom, Florida
The present is always right here - the past and future never are. They are always elsewhere.
Jody, Paris, France
"Yesterday is a cancelled check. Tomorrow is a promissory note. What we have today is ready cash - so spend it wisely."
Jane, Newport Pagnell, England
If it weren’t for the present, when and how exactly would that letter have appeared on the paper? Without the present, there can ‘be’ no past and future, no perspective, no objectivity, no subjectivity, no thought, no ‘is’, no Tao, no Zen. Everything we are is now. Now is all we can be certain of. I love now. Every now. The very nowness of now.
You can only truly live completely in It is.
As my favourite band Sunscreem once sang: "This is the infinite present..."
I received this e-mail shortly after reading you thought for the day for February 19. The time issue is addressed very well here. I hope it helps. Imagine... There is a bank that credits your account each morning with $86,400. It carries over no balance from day to day. Every evening it deletes whatever part of the balance you failed to use during the day. What would you do? Draw out ALL OF IT, of course!!!!
Each of us has such a bank. Its name is TIME. Every morning, it credits you with 86,400 seconds. Every night it writes off, as lost, whatever of this you have failed to invest to good purpose. It carries over no balance. It allows no overdraft.
Each day it opens a new account for you. Each night it burns the remains of the day. If you fail to use the day’s deposits, the loss is yours.
There is no going back. There is no drawing against the "tomorrow." You must live in the present on today’s deposits. Invest it so as to get from it the utmost in health, happiness, and success! The clock is running. Make the most of today.
To realise the value of ONE YEAR, ask a student who failed a grade.
To realise the value of ONE MONTH, ask a mother who gave birth to a premature baby.
To realise the value of ONE WEEK, ask the editor of a weekly newspaper.
To realise the value of ONE HOUR, ask the lovers who are waiting to meet.
To realise the value of ONE MINUTE, ask a person who missed the train.
To realise the value of ONE-SECOND, ask a person who just avoided an accident.
To realise the value of ONE MILLISECOND, ask the person who won a silver medal in the Olympics.
Treasure every moment you have! And treasure it more because you shared it with someone special, special enough to spend your time.
And remember that time waits for no one. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present!!!
Friends are a very rare jewel, indeed. They make you smile and encourage you to succeed. They lend an ear, they share a word of praise, and they always want to open their heart to us.
In Hindi the word for both ‘yesterday’ and ‘tomorrow’ is the same: Kal. The word for ‘today’ is different: Aaj. So, when you say ‘yesterday, today and tomorrow’ you say: ‘Kal, Aaj aur Kal’. Which makes me wonder, do both yesterday and tomorrow have the same meaning and importance? Or the same insignificance? But today is special and unique, with endless possibilities, filled with options - shaped somewhat by what yesterday was, and, in turn shaping what tomorrow will be. But ultimately, I guess your Kal (whichever one you think it might be at any given moment in time) is what your Aaj must NOT be. And your Aaj doesn’t really begin until your Kal is over or unstarted (‘pas encore entamme’, as the French would say), not so much in terms of events that happen, but more so with regard to how long they linger in the form of worry, memory, anxiety and anticipation. So, I suppose I would call Aaj everything that was joyous discovery - therefore, everything unplanned (like this e-mail)!
Maneesha, Harrow, London
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