Here's a quick question you can use to check in with yourself: Where is my allegiance in this moment? To the past, the future, or the present? Your answer to this question speaks volumes about how you're making decisions in life, how much suffering you're subjecting yourself to, and whether or not you're embodying your full power. Here's what I mean....
If we are tethered to the past, we live in the momentum of our prior choices, often perpetuating our unhappiness with unhelpful habits. We flagellate ourselves for choices we’ve now labeled as mistakes. Regret is stuck on repeat and fear becomes our guiding force in navigating future choices. We keep ourselves “safe” by cycling through self-doubt.
The flip side of that coin is a fixation on the future. We project happiness onto the movie screen of Some-Day, perpetually holding out for your tomorrows, when things will be perfect. When the conditions for your happiness will be just right. The Someday Syndrome. The phrases, “I’ll be happy when…” or “If I can just…” might sound familiar.
If we’re tethered to the past, we’re stuck in regret. And if we’re fixated on the future, we’re leaning into expectation. Or there’s the double whammy of past and future fixation called Fear Of Failure. Which puts the brakes on creativity, inspiration, self-evolution and satisfaction faster than you can say “perfectionist.” So we’re either beating ourselves up or setting our sights on the future, or both. And in the meantime, we’re miserable or paralysed or unfulfilled or just-getting-by or all of the above.
The good news is there’s another path. The present. Directing your allegiance and your attention to the present puts an end to the tyranny of regret and expectation. It cuts unhappiness off at the knees and liberates you to make your way forward with unburdened bliss.
Why is aligning yourself with the present such a potent practice? Because your power (all of it) rests in the present moment. You can’t change what happened last week. And you can’t mortgage your happiness on some projected future outcome. All you can do is impact your present moment. As the poet Rumi so beautifully put it, we “come out of the circle of time and into the circle of hope.”
When you prioritize presence, you free yourself from the debt of regret, you unchain yourself from expectancy, and you empower yourself to make this moment matter. And when this moment matters above all else, your vibe is instantly upgraded. You make choices in line with your highest good. You relish your time with loved ones. You laugh more. You eat better. You pay attention. You listen well. You feel more satisfied. You love more thoroughly. You work more diligently and efficiently. You’re more inspired and creative. You keep perspective easily. You nourish yourself intuitively. You take responsibility for your life. You move through challenges and frustrations with grace instead of grit. And all of those small things add up to one big thing: a brighter future. Minus the anxiety of expectation.
That’s the power, the elegant simplicity, of NOW.
Best way to make presence an effortless habit? Start with a daily meditation practice. In essence, meditation is a practice in presence and gives us the opportunity to retrain our minds. Think of your meditation practice as a training ground for the rest of your life. It gives us an occasion to notice how often we leave presence and it gives us the tools and the fortitude to return our attention to presence as often as necessary (which can be like, ALLTHETIME). Meditation makes us mindful of our attention. And mindfulness empowers us to be more present, on and off the meditation cushion.