In high school and college, I was a stage manager. For the uninitiated, that’s the person who notes all the actors’ blocking, feeds them a line when they ask for it, calls the lighting and sound cues during the show, and just generally supports the director in manifesting their vision. I was good at it because I perpetually thought about the future and what was next. The shadow side of being an adept organizer/planner is I have trouble staying present.
After every show, I fell into a depression because there was no next. I didn’t have to plan and had no idea what to do with myself. I’m no longer a stage manager but the behavior didn’t quit when I stopped participating in theater. I still focus far too much on the future because I think that’s where my happiness lies. It’s the “I’ll be happy when” trap but life doesn’t happen in the future, it happens now. In this moment.
I can’t mention this topic without quoting Ram Dass and Eckhart Tolle. Ram Dass says in his famous book Be Here Now:
“[I]f you set the alarm to get up at 3:47 this morning and when the alarm rings and you get up and turn it off and say: ‘What time is it?’ You’d say, ‘Now. Now. Where am I? Here! Here!’ then go back to sleep and get up at 9:00 tomorrow. Where am I?? Here! What time is it? Now! Try 4:32 three weeks from next Thursday. By God it is – there’s no getting away from it – that’s the way it is. That’s the eternal present. You finally figure out that it’s only the clock that’s going around … it’s doing its thing but you – you’re sitting here, right now, always.”
Tolle writes, “Most humans are never fully present in the now because unconsciously they believe that the next moment must be more important than this one. But then you miss your whole life, which is never not now.” Yep. And to underscore the point some more, here’s another quote from Ram Dass: “What are you doing? Planning for the future? Well it’s all right now but later? Forget it baby, that’s later. Now is now. Are you going to be here or not? It’s as simple as that!”
Simple but not easy. There’s a part of me that thinks I can skip to the “good part” of life where I have the husband, the house, the bestselling book, but I forget that the work now is how all of the future dreams come true. I can’t have the things I want now because I’m not the person I need to be to receive them. Here’s a true story to illustrate this.
I met a woman many years ago who I knew would become one of my closest friends. I wanted us to become bosom buddies, to quote Anne of Green Gables, but this friend didn’t get the memo. When she had a bachelorette party and didn’t invite me, I was hurt and disappointed because it didn’t seem right, it didn’t make sense. We were supposed to be close friends! Never mind the fact we hadn’t logged the hours on the phone or spent the time together in person to make that true!
Fast forward to today and not only am I invited to her bachelorette party, she asked me to give a toast at her wedding because we are bosom buddies and she wants to signal that to her community. I couldn’t have skipped to this part because our friendship hadn’t grown and developed. We didn’t know each other well enough to warrant an invite to her first bachelorette party. We lived our way into the future by being present to what was.
My spiritual teacher says the past, present, and future are not separate and distinct from each other. He adds, “Nothing suddenly emerges or suddenly disappears; all entities respectfully obey the Cosmic laws in a disciplined way and proceed from the future to the still more distant future in the panoramic flow of the Cosmic Cycle. No one can resist the momentum of this Cosmic flow – no one can contain it – no one can suppress it.”
I take that to mean, yes, the past influences the present and the future, but again life is a flow happening in the here and now. Am I moving with it or not?
I dream of a world where we live in the moment. A world where we understand the future is not more important than the present. A world where we recognize we can’t jump ahead to the future because we have to live our way into the future. A world where we remember life always happens here, now.
Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.