Unless you are one of the Jetsons, living in the future isn’t such a stellar idea. Our constant worry about the future robs us of one of the most precious things we already have – the present. We can dream big, and set big goals, even as the New Year approaches, but constantly putting our mental energy in a space and time that we cannot control is like treading water with ten thousand pound weights tied to our ankles. There is a better way.
1.) Why We Project Ourselves into the Future, and How to Stop
Living in the present is difficult for many of us because we have fears about the past, or we have incorrect assumptions, also called programming, about what may possibly transpire. Oddly, our constant projections into the future are really about escaping something that happened to us in the past. Our goals to find a perfect romantic partner, make more money or go on that amazing vacation are all well and good, but ask yourself this – do you plan on doing these things as a way to escape past relationship pain, the devastation of being broke, or the tedium of past day-today life?
Some fears are natural, but many of us are on a treadmill into some imagined future not ever realizing we are running in place. Your future becomes brighter, ironically, when you fully experience the wonders around you right now. Like a candle, we only burn with each second of oxygen we allow our own inner flame.
If it is difficult to escape pain from the past, or worry about the future, try becoming completely engulfed in the sensations of your body. Look at everything around you, with acute detail. See the smile on a stranger’s face. Smell the coffee brewing at your neighbor’s house, or the sea breeze. Feel the sun on your skin, and the wind in your hair. Notice all the color and life teeming around you.
Instead of fantasizing about how rich, beautiful, and well-travelled (or whatever other thing you like to make yourself into in the future reality) you will be, take an honest look at what you are now. Are you kind? Are you responsible? Are you honest with yourself and others?
Who you are right now, in this moment, is exceedingly more important than who you will be tomorrow. That’s because the future takes cares of itself according to the actions you take right now.
When you next take any action, be sure you are doing only what you can accomplish right now, and leave all concern for what that action will manifest in the future, alone.
“Live each moment completely and the future will take care of itself. Fully enjoy the wonder and beauty of each moment.” ― Paramahansa Yogananda
2.) Being Mindful Really Means Being Present
As long as we are concerned with another moment besides the one we are in, we aren’t truly aware. We eat dreaming about dessert, or thinking about what we will do next. We have conversations thinking of what we will say next, missing out on the opportunity to truly hear what our partners and friends are saying. When we drive, we are already at our destination mentally, before we ever get there, often causing accidents, or just missing out on the scenery along the way. In almost everything we do, we are constantly somewhere else, rather than savoring the moment.
Even housework can be more enjoyable when we are in the present, but some of the greatest works of art are created by mindful attention. A painter or musician creates a masterpiece when they lose themselves in the ‘flow,’ which really means they are completely mindful and in the now with every single stroke they make across a canvas, or every note they play or compose. We can achieve this same sense of mindfulness by staying in the moment in every action we take.
3.) Stop Multi-Tasking, and Start Single-Tasking
Your employer may love it when you multi-task, but your soul doesn’t. Researchers Kelvin Lui and Alan Wong at the Chinese University of Hong Kong discovered that people who multitask or those who frequently use lots of different media at once, are better at integrating information, but what exactly are you integrating? You may feel good about yourself for getting so much done, but what have you truly accomplished?
Many of us multi-taskers try to do everything at once so that we can clear space for the future. There it is again – that projection into some ‘other’ time that we can sit quietly and have peace. Instead of planning for ‘it’ like some amorphous cloud we’ll somehow land on in Never Never Land, we can do one thing at a time with conscious awareness, and let the future be what it will be, then magically we’ll experience that peace we long for — right now!
Try drinking your tea without flipping through your iPhone or checking your email. Try walking and just observing your breath or really seeing what is around you. Leave multi-tasking to the hamsters on their wheels, and give your soul a rest.
“There’s a vast difference between drinking a morning cup of tea with full attention and drinking it while preoccupied by our plans for the day.” – Japanese Zen tea connoisseur and Psychotherapist Tara Bennett-Goleman, Emotional Alchemy: How Your Mind Can Heal Your Heart (2003), p27.
Living in the present allows us to be in touch with the Universal creative energy, which is renewed every micro-second. If we are fretting about the future (which is really just a disguise for fear of the past) then we can’t get in touch with that Universal flow. Try practicing presence today in everything you do, and see what electric beauty unfolds right before your eyes.