Bella, my cockapoo, trotted contentedly beside me as we walked this morning. Not too long into our three-mile route, I became aware that my mind flitted restlessly in many different directions. First it would dwell on the past – what happened yesterday, last week, last year. Then it would jump into the future – what might happen tomorrow, next week, next year.
When I actually began to watch my thoughts, I noticed that, with the past/future thinking came an underlying discontentment. And it blotted out my awareness of the beauty around me!
I made a choice to change that. For the duration of the walk, I determined that every time my mind left the present moment, I would bring myself back into the “now.” I began to focus on the sights, sounds and smells around me.
I listened to the birds chirping, squirrels chattering, and my footsteps on the pavement. I drank in the fluffy clouds and the majesty of Mingus Mountain. I inhaled the rays of the sun breaking through clouds and the colors of the trees and flowers. I deliberately appreciated the adorable little dog trotting beside me. I exulted in the delicious morning air.
Immediately, calm and serenity replaced the angst and discontentment. Completely. Later, I contemplated the consequences of “time zone” thinking.
Focusing on the past can bring regret and depression. Negative past thinking often engages you in “if only” thoughts. “If only I had been more careful.” “He shoulda done that differently!” “I coulda tried harder.” The chatter becomes incessant! Thoughts of the past exist only in memory. Dwelling there all the time brings you down and can contribute to morose feelings.
Focusing on the future can cause anxiety. When your mind jumps ahead, it goes into “what if. . .?” thinking. More often than not, it begins to imagine all that might go wrong. “What if I lose my job?” “What if I fail the exam?” “What if my son has a car accident?” These thoughts exist only in imagination and bring on a load of fear.
Someone once told me that she has a fear of dying. “Are you alive now?” I asked her. This question brought her into the present moment. She immediately realized what she had been doing: creating drama, through fear of the future, that disrupted her ability to enjoy her life now.
Moving out of the “time-zones” into present-moment awareness offers a distinct advantage.
Focusing on the present moment brings joy and peace. In this moment, according to Eckhart Tolle, no problems exist; just situations to be handled. You can make a choice now about anything that arises in the moment. You can’t do that with the past or with the future.
So start to watch your thoughts (without judging them, please). When you realize the disadvantages of the past/future time-zone habit, don’t you want to give it up?
I invite you to join me in the practice of present-moment awareness!
Dr. Marta practices as a Life Coach in Communication and Consciousness. To contact her, write firstname.lastname@example.org or call (928) 451-9482.