Each month a couple of weeks before this blog is due to post I start to think about what you might like to hear about. And each month, with a little bit of near-panic in my heart because I think I won’t come up with something, I sit down to meditate and I ask the universe to show me what I should be writing about. And miraculously, every month it does. Slowly but surely, as I listen, themes start to emerge in my conversations with others. Unequivocally, this month’s theme was the idea that a lot of us seem to be waiting for an area of our lives or something about ourselves to change, either to go back to being as they once were or to grow into something else. In some instances, we look at something that has changed, we remember how it used to be, and we want it to be that way again. Maybe it’s a general feeling or maybe it’s more tangible like when we were a few pounds lighter, or our hair was thicker, or we had a job we loved, or we had someone in our lives who is no longer with us. In other cases we look at how something is and we want it to transform itself into something more or something different altogether. We tell ourselves things like I’ll be happy when I have a certain job, or make a certain amount of money, or I lose weight, or I have the most perfect looking yoga practice. I realized lately how often I tend to look at something and compare it to how things used to be. I have also realized that in doing that, I’m not able to fully appreciate the present moment. Coming to that realization and figuring out what to do with that information has been a process but I think it’s critical because we only get one shot at these moments and as long as we are looking backward or forward, we are not able to fully recognize the value of what is happening right now, in the present.
If we are waiting or hoping for something to be how it once was, realistically speaking, we know that we can’t go back. Theoretically, we are always evolving because things are happening in each moment that influence our perception in some way, no matter how small. We can’t unlearn or unknow these things that we’ve experienced and they have helped to shape who we are now. For some of us, these changes happen so gradually that they are almost imperceptible. And for some of us something has happened like an illness, injury, or loss that make the differences in us somehow seem more pronounced.
We only get one shot at these moments and as long as we are looking backward or forward, we are not able to fully recognize the value of what is happening right now, in the present.
While we can’t physically go back and undo or unknow and we can’t force something to evolve, we can change our focus. We can think about what we have now and shift our thoughts from those of yearning for what we don’t have to those of gratitude and appreciation for what we do. We can examine what it is we are actually looking for by asking ourselves what the feelings are beneath what we want. For example, are we looking to feel safe, connected, valued? What was or is happening when we feel those things? Who are we with? By paying attention we can figure out what we might be able to do to shape our current environment so that while we may not be able to go back in time, we can try to create more of those moments and better address our needs.
This is all still a work in progress for me. I have experienced some major changes over the last few years, and like most people, there are things about myself and my life that I am happy with and some things I wish felt the way they “used to.” So when I catch myself being impatient with myself or wishing things were different, I try to examine what I am really missing and see what I might be able to do with my current circumstances to create the feelings and experiences I’m looking for. And through my yoga and mediation practice, I have made a great deal of progress toward being able to stay in the present, to not question what has happened or wait for what might.
As writer, journalist, and cartoonist Allen Saunders said, “life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” And if we are always waiting for something, we’re missing it.