Anxiety kicks up for me when I start to contemplate the future in a negative way. When I imagine worst-case scenarios like all my clients will end our relationship, I’ll drain my savings, and I’ll never move out of this one-bedroom apartment. It’s not a pleasant rumination. The answer seems simple, doesn’t it? Stop imagining a negative future.
Instead of imagining a negative future I could imagine a positive future. I could also do that thing spiritual teachers everywhere advise: be present. The latter is what’s coming up for me today. In fact, there’s a quote I like from a daily reader and this morning I planned to thumb through the entire book until I found it, except no need. I opened the book to exactly the quote I had in mind! It’s by Pindar who said, “Do not peer too far.” The affirmation in my daily reader is, “For today, I neither want to know the future, nor to live in it before it arrives.” Truthfully, I do want to know the future, but only if the future is line with my dreams, not my nightmares. However, the message for today is, “Be where your feet are.”
In the present moment am I OK? Am I able to pay my rent? Is there food in my fridge? Do I have a place to sleep? Am I getting enough connection? If the answer to all those questions is “yes,” I’d say I’m doing alright. What also helps me become grounded is to use my senses. What are five things I can see? Four things I can feel? Three things I can hear? Two things I can smell? One thing I can taste? Being in my body brings peace because the body only knows the here and now, nothing else.
It’s also helpful to remind myself life can be surprising and delightful. For instance, in the middle of writing this, a friend called me up and asked me if I’d like to go to an outdoor party in the redwoods with a pickup in 45 minutes! I said yes because why the heck not? I love redwoods and I haven’t been to a party in ages. If I knew the future, I wouldn’t be surprised or delighted by the spontaneous turn of events, and spontaneity goes hand in hand with joy, according to research.
Eating lunch sitting among redwoods and then lounging in a hammock afterward while I watched the wind blow needles off the trees was pretty delightful, I must say. And it’s not what I had planned for my day, which made it all the more enjoyable. Eckhart Tolle speaks to this in his book The Power of Now when he writes, “As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out the present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care, and love — even the most simple action.”
So that’s what I’m doing today, living in the now, being present, reminding myself the future is an ever-evolving situation that I’m not able to predict anyway. But this right here I can do something about, and for today, that means not peering too far.
I dream of a world where we realize looking too far ahead will likely cause anxiety and instead we stay present. A world where we understand the present moment is a point of power. A world where we remember life can be surprising and delightful, but only if we let it.
Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.