News comes of a friend’s untimely passing. It is not exactly unexpected— he’s been bravely fighting a highly invasive and aggressive disease for some months—but it is somehow shocking, nevertheless, if only because I’m older than him by a number of years and this isn’t the way it is supposed to be. I think of his wife and his son and rage at the injustice of it; at my own inadequacy to say anything that could possibly be of comfort.
Which is why, as I have grown older, I’ve come to understand the wisdom of living life in the moment. The now is all we have and it is very fleeting. The past is gone; nothing we can do will change it. As for the future, despite all attempts to predict it, it is a perfect unknown; by the time we arrive there, it will be our now.
So I try to be mindful of this; to let those people in my life who matter know how important they are to me; to attempt to operate from a center of unconditional love; to not leave unsaid what I would ultimately regret not saying.
Years of contemplation, of reading the great thinkers and meditating on what they conclude have helped me find that center in my own life. To my great surprise, I recently came across a book that helped me define the place I’d arrived at by trial and error and that I am sure will help others find a much more straightforward way forward.
The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion by Christopher K Germer, PhD is part scientific analysis, part background manual, and most of all, a step-by-step handbook to developing self-compassion on a daily basis. The importance of doing this is so that you can live more fully in the present moment. Magically, it transpires, learning to be kind to yourself— without judgment and self-blame—is the way to developing a healthy psyche of the sort that will make a real difference in your own life as well as those around you.
Ian de Stains is the executive director of the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan. The views expressed in this column are strictly his own and are not necessarily endorsed by or shared by the Chamber