In a couple of recent posts, How to Slow Down Time and In the Zone, I was talking about a recurring theme in this blog: living in the moment, as promoted by Eckhart Tolle in his book The Power Of Now. This is all about being in touch with our senses: focusing on whatever we're actually doing at the time, instead of being lost in a tangle of thoughts as we so often are. I've described this myself in more detail in another earlier post, Feeling What Is.
One criticism which is often leveled at the idea of being in the moment, especially by those who wish to dismiss it as a 'new age fad', is that of course this is impossible, or at any rate unwise, because we have to plan ahead to organize our lives. We have to think about the future because we have to be prepared for whatever life has in store for us. At the very least, we need to make sure we have some food in for dinner tonight.
Now strictly speaking, it is said that we humans are able to reach a state in which we don't have to plan ahead. If we become enlightened, we will be so in touch with the flow of life that we respond spontaneously and effectively to whatever life may throw at us. We are permanently 'in the zone', like a pro sportsman in touch with his game, as I described in a recent post.
But most of us, regrettably, are not enlightened - at any rate, not yet. Even after dabbling in this spiritual stuff for some time, I am only catching glimpses of this wonderful state of being for myself. But that doesn't mean to say that living in the moment is impossible for us. Yes, we have to plan for the future, but we don't have to do it all the time.
If we have a meeting tomorrow, for instance, we may have to think about what we want to say - perhaps jot some notes down on a piece of paper - and work out when we will have to set off to arrive in time. If it is an important meeting, we may even think about what we should wear to create the right effect. But we don't have to spend all day thinking about it. We don't have to think endlessly on about what we should wear, or whether we will be held up in traffic, or whether we should set three alarm clocks instead of just two to make sure we wake up in time. We don't have to turn these things over and over in our minds as we go about our day. And yet this is what we often tend to do. Which means that real life - the actual business of living - goes on almost unnoticed around us.
When I was a kid, I used to love the vacation and hated going back to school (at least until I got there, at which point I realized it wasn't so bad after all). So because of this fear, I used to spend my final day of freedom in a state of dread about what was to come: all those lessons, all that homework, aaagh! Then one day, I realized that I was wasting a perfectly good day of the vacation by worrying about all this. I could have been enjoying that day instead of being miserable all the time. So I decided that in future, I would save worrying about going back to school until the final evening of the vacation. That way, I could enjoy myself for the rest of the day.
And that is what I did from then on.
If I'd been really smart of course, I'd have decided not to worry about school at all, not even in the evening, but even so, I don't think I did too badly for a twelve year old.
There's no reason why we can't adopt a similar approach to life in general. If there is something you have to plan for, ask yourself if there's anything you need to do about it now. If so, take that action. If not, then put the matter out of your mind for the time being until some specified time which you designate for doing the necessary planning. When that time arrives, give the matter the thought it requires. Then put it out of your mind again until one of two things happens: either some further prearranged planning time arrives or the thing you are planning for - gosh, wow - actually happens.
Occasionally, of course, something unexpected will come along which will require you to give the event additional attention - you have to be flexible. But generally speaking, organizing your planning time in this way will free up a lot of space in your brain for other things - like paying attention to actually living your life.
Which is all very well, but if you're like me, you may find yourself hearing a little voice in your mind from time to time which tells you that you are being irresponsible in not worrying about this event in your life that's about to happen. It is your duty to be worried, it may tell you. It's very important - you have to think about it! "But I've decided to think about it on Tuesday morning at half past ten," you reply. "That will give me plenty of time for all the planning I need." Ah yes, the voice says, unconvinced, but you should be worrying about it now. You should be worrying yourself sick. You should be...
Just tell it to shut up, that's my advice. You've taken any action you need to take at the moment. You've prearranged the necessary planning time. If anything unexpected turns up in the meantime, you will deal with it then. That's all you need to do. It is not your duty to worry about it now, quite the opposite. It is your duty not to worry. The more you worry about it, the more wear and tear you will put on your nervous system and the less effectively you may deal with the event when it actually happens. What is more, you will be missing out on life while you worry away. This is your life we're talking about here. It only happens once - and you have a responsibility to be there when it does.
In any case, it is wrong to assume that just because you are not consciously thinking about something, you are failing to give it any attention. From time to time, you have probably woken up from a night's sleep to find that you suddenly have a solution to some problem which has been troubling you. This is because your subconscious mind has been dealing with it while you were asleep.
Yet your subconscious mind can also work on problems while you are awake, especially if you are not getting in the way of it by turning them over and over again in your conscious mind. So give your subconscious a chance and focus on whatever is happening in the present moment instead. Then you may find that when your prearranged planning time arrives, you have subconsciously done a lot of the planning already.
What is more, when we are in the moment, we seem to tap into a source of what appears to be almost supernatural energy. (I don't think it is really supernatural - it's just that we don't understand it yet...) This source can manifest itself in a great many ways. One of them is in the perfect connection of bat on ball when a sportsman is 'in the zone'. And perhaps that same enormous power can be brought to bear on this problem of yours, on your plans for the future, on all aspects of your life... if you can only learn to put them out of your mind.
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