Is our fantasy of tomorrow preventing life today? There is a Zen saying which states that we should all aspire to be like a baby, experiencing each thing anew, recovering its wonder, in this we find peace, we find joy, we find the departure of negative feeling states attached to memory’s. There are many times when the perception of life’s lengthy expanse may prevent us from engaging fully in today, we imagine that we always have another tomorrow to complete our goals, to say hello, to say good bye, or to utter I’m sorry. As an exercise in consciousness and imagination, consider for a moment that you have learned it will be your last day on earth. I imagine that most of us would want to know this information as it would likely shape how we interact on our final day. If we could harness our strength and be compelled to ride the waves of anxiety something unique happens when we let go of the illusion of tomorrow, we submerge ourselves with attention in the things that matter most, we begin to embody our true or essential selves.
What is meant by the term true self? Most people when asked what they would do on their final day, make some mention of spending time with the people who they love. We want to tell them that we love them, perhaps to lay behind us disagreements and grievances. Yet too we often want to contribute something to humanity or to our family. Our essential self, offers peace and love as its greatest legacy yet often in life we are caught up in our feelings of injustice, notion of what is right or wrong, rigid boundaries with others so then it becomes easy to hold grudges, not make time for those we care about as we check our email, lift our weights, as we save and toil for our eternally uncertain futures.
There is another Zen saying which states that if we are feeling anxiety it is because we are in the future, if we are feeling depression it is because we are in the past, if we are feeling calm it is because we are in the present. Our human minds easily drift among these layers of consciousness, with the gift of memory and planning we have evolved so well to map out our future, considering things like consequences and possibilities. It is the same too with consideration of the past, it is an evolutionary advantage to remember people and situations which cause us fear and pain. It is healthy and expected to refrain from dangers and risks and move towards help and comfort. Without concerns for the future, as we continue our exercise in imagining that it is our last day on earth, we are poised on the precipice of the great unknown, we may be better able to remain grounded “in the now”. Author Randy Pausch, esteemed writer of “The Last Lecture”, Randy wrote a memoir on living while dying, in one of his chapters he references how brilliant each moment became when we know that our time is very limited. We open ourselves to the grandeur and wonder when we imagine that the things we encounter will never be encountered again, yet the truth is for each of us, full of health and contentment, time is limited, it is ticking with finality, how vivid is today, how connected to the things and people do you feel that you are right now? How do you feel about the life that you will be living today? Have you made amends with your regrets? Are you connected to passion, serenity, to wonder? We cannot be sure about tomorrow but how alive can we become today?
In peace and joy,
Stephanie McCracken MSCP
Nicole Monteleone MA, LPC, NCC
Reviving Minds Therapy
Counseling and Psychotherapy ‘Couples Therapy
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233 Suite 100