I woke up this morning and looked at yellowing leaves on the trees and suddenly thought,
“I feel great! Well done to me. I am nailing winter like a boss!”
Then I realised that it’s still October and my heart sank.
I started to fret about the dark mornings – I get up at 6.50 every morning (don’t check this with anyone in my house) to get kids off to school. And in the depths of winter it’s not yet light by the time everyone has left the house. Oh how I hate it. The evenings are just more of the same – dark, wet and cold.
So my mind picks up the baton of anxiety and runs with it into the future, nimbly hurdling my warnings that it might not be good to go there.
Me: I don’t think it’s good to over think this stuff.
Mind: (Calling back over its shoulder). No, this shit needs to be sorted. Stick the kettle on!
The problems fall into focus: How will I do the entire Christmas season without drinking? I hope Grandad and Grandma will be well enough to come to us at Christmas. Oh god, January is the longest month ever but then February sucks too. And spring is still cold, you know, it’s not over in March! Blah, blah, bloody, blah.
So what should I do? The tendency is to think that if you can solve all the above issues then you’ll happily get back to your day, feeling much lightened of your load. This is a lie. Your mind is lying to you!
The Power of Now.
About 7 years ago I read a book which changed my life. It’s called “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. If you haven’t already then stop reading this and go read that. It’s so much better than anything I have to say!
If you’re still with me then I’ll summarise its message and why it’s so important to all of us. Essentially, Tolle says that we are all victims of our overactive minds and that the simplest way to tame them is to live in the now. Of course that is easier said than done but as with anything, it gets better with practice.
When I first grasped this notion it was really amazing. Tolle describes many techniques for being in the moment and when you get it, it’s pretty mind blowing. Being able to leave your thoughts for a few moments and just be completely here, in your body, your mind calm and open, not thinking, just being. A human, being. (See what I did there?)
Over time I have become more attune with my tendency to drift into the future or linger in the past. Being aware of when I am doing it is the life changing bit. If you don’t know you’re doing it then how can you change it? At times I am ninja quick at shifting to the present and at other times I am so caught up in the quagmire of ‘ifs’, ‘buts’ and ‘maybes’ that I completely forget the present and I get proper stressed out! (That’s why I keep this and other brilliant books by my bed, to remind me.)
So how specifically do you return your attention to the present moment? The book states:
“Become aware of your breathing. Feel the air flowing in and out of your body. Feel your inner energy field. All that you ever have to deal with, cope with, in real life – as opposed to imaginary mind projections – is this moment.”
I urge you to try this technique the next time you become aware that your thoughts have drifted up your rectum.
The Bhagavad Gita.
Another incredible book that tackles this issue is The Bhagavad Gita. Written (or received, if you want to get spiritual about it) around 5000 years ago, it is a message from ‘Divinity’ to man. If you’re not fluent in Sanskrit (how embarrassing for you) then buy ‘The Bhagavad Gita – A walkthrough for westerners’ by Jack Hawley.
Here’s one of my favourite bits.
“For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow is only a vision,
But today well lived makes
Every yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.”
And that just about sums it up. If you get today right then tomorrow will take care of itself.
Quitting alcohol has probably been the most important lesson in ‘now’ that I have learnt. There is a great little AA book called “Living Sober”. It has in it 31 ways to avoid drinking and number 3 is called ‘Using the 24 hour plan’. It struck a chord. It says,
‘Every recovery from alcoholism began with one sober hour…Life is daily; today is all we have; and anybody can go one day without drinking.’
Brilliant huh! Anyone can stick to a plan for one day. But if we allow our minds to indulge in the madness of teleporting into the future and having discussions with people we’ll probably never have, justifying things that haven’t yet happened or languishing in a past that no longer exists, then we will forever be controlled by our thoughts.
So many determined alcoholics have lapsed because they swore they would never drink again. Never is a very long time! But ‘just for today’ is something we can all commit to.
So my day has ended up being better because I noticed that ‘tomorrow thinking’ this morning. See if you can clock yourself doing it and if you do then just let it go and return to now. The more you do it the more you’ll get it.