This week I am inspired to share with you my “plan” to have no plans- to increase my awareness of the present moment and release my need to anticipate and control the future. I am reminded of how much of my past involved an effort to resist, ignore or numb the present, especially when I judged it to be boring or uncomfortable.
For example, years ago I dreaded spending precious weekend time cleaning the house. I would anticipate it with annoyance and then complete the chore with grumpy resignation. Then one day I had a great idea: if I had a cocktail before cleaning it might actually be enjoyable!
It worked…initially. I remember feeling a happy buzz as I pulled the vacuum cleaner out of the closet. I never knew vacuuming was so much fun! And then…. the vacuum cleaner slipped from my hands at the top of the stairs, tumbling all the way to the bottom and gouging a hole in the dry wall.
At that time in my life, I thought I was simply trying to make a boring weekend chore more entertaining. Now I know I was trying to avoid the present moment.
The present moment is incredibly easy to evade- especially when we are feeling emotions that are traditionally labeled as negative. There are countless avoidance tools: TV, smart phones, eating, drinking, drugs, shopping, gossiping, excessive exercise. I bet you can quickly identify your favorite strategies.
But have you ever considered how much time your mind spends ruminating about the past and anticipating the future? Thinking, and therefore living, in the past and future are also techniques for avoiding the present.
Have you ever heard your mind saying, “ Life was so good when….” or “I will finally be happy when…. ”?
Me too! In fact I’ve come to believe it is the default mode of the unconscious monkey-mind. Unfortunately, obsessing about the past and future results in regret, shame, stress and anxiety. When we avoid the present because we perceive it as uncomfortable, we are actually creating more discomfort.
In his writings, Eckhart Tolle makes the case that all we truly have is the now.
This present moment.
Life is happening in the now.
The past is gone, the future does not exist.
When we can accept the present we can experience the indescribable beauty in each moment and end our suffering.
Living in the present should be the simplest thing to do, but it is not! As I’ve mentioned, we have unlimited techniques for distracting ourselves from the present. And then there’s the chatter of the mind, reliving past experiences and worrying about the future.
Can you try to be an observer? To notice when you turn to distraction tools or when your mind carries you away from the present? Resist the urge to judge or try to change anything, just notice.
When you successfully notice a distraction tool or past and future thoughts, take a moment to ground in the present. Take a few deep breaths, following them as they travel in and out of your body. Close your eyes and observe the breath with full awareness. Eckhart Tolle states that short periods of breath awareness throughout the day are just as effective as hours of meditation. Isn’t that exciting?
I would love to hear your experiences, questions and comments! Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org .