Time plays more of a part in my life than I thought it did. Perhaps, if I pause for a moment, plays more of a part than anything else. In time, I hope to get better at it, although that hope directly undermines the point of this blog, which is to reduce dreams and increase the now.
This could get confusing, so I will try to switch off my ‘pun-echanism’ and not talk about time for a moment. Or a non-moment.
The theme of this post is one that is woven through many of my other verbal ramblings – time – but it was with some surprise when I went over previous posts that I realised I’d never attacked it head on. Like a capoiera fighter turned bad, I’ve been dancing and prancing around the problem for a long while, but now it’s time for a cheeky, full-contact uppercut, then a knee straight to the groin of the problem.
That’s twice in the last few weeks that I’ve metaphorically attacked the groinal area. Time for some Freudian head-work, methinks.
Enough of the dance, so here we go:
When sitting in a therapist’s chair in my early twenties, one of the principal observations was that I frequently anticipated thoughts and questions and answers. My bearded Freud-lookalike therapist told me that I always had a quick answer – it was as if, he claimed, I was trying to pull the questions or thoughts out of him rather than wait to hear what he had to say.
I’ve always been a quick study, but is it possible to be guilty of trying to determine what someone is saying before they’ve said it? Perhaps, but it makes relationships, and allowing the enjoyment of the unexpected, much more difficult. If you think you know the answer, you can distort your ability to listen, or be objective. If I were to delve deeper, I might learn that it is all about Ego. But that is for another post.
My therapist wasn’t that good, (or perhaps too good, but I guess with therapists you never know and after all this was about ego) so I mostly ignored his advice.
Later, when sitting for a vipassana, I noticed that I was constantly clock-watching. Every five minutes, I’d turn round to spy the clock and see how much time had passed, which became irritating because, normally, remarkably little had.
Given how much time I had on my hands during vipassana, I noticed that a huge amount of my life had been spent going over the past, or predicting or dreaming about the future.
I realised that, like a boat sailing through the ocean, the past was my wake. There was little I could do to further calm or disrupt the waters. Therapy is perhaps one way of learning from your past, but there wasn’t anything I could do to change it. Your past is a bit like a tattoo – indelible. Only your acceptance can change.
In turn the future was, stretching the poor sailing metaphor, unpredictable. Although it was possible to steer direction, or anticipate what you can see or receive on your radio, the only thing you can do is act in the present. You can’t reach out in front of the boat and calm waters, or whisk up a breeze.
You can only act now, even if the future is obvious. Even the water that can be seen a hundred metres in front of the boat can only be acted on when you are on it. In addition, you often prepare for things that never happen the way you expected they would.
Said again, I learned that the only way you can have an impact on the future is through the present. You can plan and scheme and dream, but it is only through your actions in this moment that you can make a difference. For all my dreams of doing and being things that weren’t happening then, many remain unfulfilled. In addition, the focus on the future prevented me from making the changes in the moment.
We are trained to believe that with education, hard work, diligence and careful planning, then we’ll have a better future. We’re trained to think about our future constantly. But we never know when a mad despot, probably CIA-trained, will receive a wheelbarrow full of weapons-grade ‘something-ium’ and blow us away.
I’m not suggesting we carpe diem without regard for our future (does this translate as ‘the day of the carp’ – a day in the life of an enlarged goldfish with a 3-second memory? That would be living in the moment). Instead we should spend about 10% on our past and 13% on our future, leaving the lucky-number filled 77% for the present. Because, usually, I spend about 30% in my past and about 69% wallowing in thoughts about my future, leaving an unlucky 1% for the here and now. Ekhart Tolle would be turning in his cardigan.
The more that I try to hold back on anticipating the future, the more rewarding the future is when it rolls around. The less I try to work out what I will feel and where I’ll be in a month or a year from now, the more energy I have to enjoy this moment. The ‘Power of Now’, Ekhart would have us claim. If all you can affect is now, rolling forward, it is harder to get caught up in the planning and easier to revel in the enjoyment.
The more I realise that the only place I can DO anything is in the present, the more I value it. Take that, evil diary – for NOW.