My friend and I are planning a road trip to explore an area to which we are both considering moving. I’m excited about making a change and finding a place in which I feel I want to put down new roots. As we discussed our intentions of, I started feeling pangs of urgency, a desire to just be there already, living in my new home, weeding my new garden and meeting my new neighbours.
Sometimes, I love this natural impulse that bids us forward in our lives, like the sunlight inviting the tiny sprouts to push their way up through the soil into the light.
But for many people, it can be more like insatiable impulsivity and they find themselves rushing forward blindly to acquire new experiences and savour something new.
I coached a young woman who described it like this: “There are so many possibilities of things to do, not just today but every day and for my whole lifetime. It’s not like there are just a few beacons ahead of me; they are ALL calling to me. Come taste this. Learn how to do this. Meet these people. Enjoy this…. It’s a constant push to do more, do it all.”
I’m pretty sure she’s not alone in this. The desire for the future is natural but, when we’re always anticipating what’s next and even pushing for it to arrive, we can run into some real difficulties and pay some high costs.
First and foremost, it prevents you from being in the present and savoring what you are experiencing right now – someone’s smile, the shape of a cloud, the taste of apple pie or the words on this page. It drags you too quickly out of the kind of moments that could build your sense of satisfaction, all the while promising more satisfaction farther up the road.
My client explained, “I’m living a pattern of anticipating instead of actually living, like I’m not quite experiencing real life.”
In this way, the habit of anticipation can also deprive you of a deeper sense of joy. What?! Yes, the push into the future is often a diversion from painful feelings and uncomfortable emotions. It insists that you stay positive. “Life is short so get out there and enjoy it.” This sounds great and yet, by preventing you from receiving the essential lessons of things like grief, loneliness, disappointment, fragility, regret and emptiness, it inhibits your full experience of life. It’s the experience of deep sadness that allows us to experience joy, the pain of loss that inspires deeper appreciation and satisfaction.
If you’re nodding your head, you’re not alone.
Many of my clients come to me seeking more access to their grounding and presence. And, although I’ve learned some things in my journey to peace and presence, I’m not immune from the urge to force things to happen before it’s the right time. And it hit home again the other day, as I recognized that I’ve been longing to be in my new town so much that I haven’t been appreciating my current home. I live three blocks from the ocean in a peaceful village surrounded by the stunning temperate rainforest. But I find myself thinking more often about how it’s too small, too rainy, too….. instead of enjoying what is here.
So what’s to be done when we feel ourselves leaning too far into the future?
Here’s a quick, simple practice to help you:
Start by setting your intention to observe the pull of the future in your day to day. Notice when you’re anticipating what’s next or grasping for a new experience or sensation and, well, not really here.
· Pause wherever you are. Please actually stop what you’re doing, just for one minute.
· Lean your body forward as far as possible. Jut your chin forward, arch your back, come forward of your ankles and knees. Exaggerate it and put weight forward onto your toes. Hold this position as long as you can, noting the tension and instability.
· Now bring your body upright and into a balance. Take a few gentle deep breaths and connect with what is here and real right now. Begin by engaging your senses. What can you see and hear? What are you standing upon? Touch something.
· Then open yourself a little more, still standing erect and centered. Take in a particular shade of blue, a texture or a quiet sound you wouldn’t otherwise notice. Allow yourself to be touched by these impressions for at least 30 full seconds before continuing with your day.
I invite you to jot a few notes on what you observe:
· What sensations did you feel in your body when leaning forward? Be very specific.
· What were the details of your mind chatter?
· What efforts were required to bring yourself upright and what more were you able to take in from that position?
· What impact did that have on your sense of satisfaction?
We don’t always notice when we’re leaning too far forward in our lives, right? This one minute per day brings people a greater ability to notice when they’re rushing headlong into what’s next, instead of savoring what’s here and now.
And, of course, that sharper awareness helps you cultivate your ability to bring yourself back into the present which is, of course, where all the beautiful moment of life are actually happening.
The young woman had tears in her eyes, “There’s some kind of story in my head that I need to have certain experiences and then, only then, will I feel fulfilled in my life. But I never get there. It’s like a moving target – I’m afraid it’s actually unobtainable. I don’t want to live the rest of my life like this.”
Satisfaction is definitely elusive, and even more so when you’re anticipating incessantly and trying to force the future. There’s a part of you that believes that satisfaction and happiness are somewhere up ahead of you. Unfortunately, that takes you out of contact with your own current real experiences. And that, ironically (sigh), diminishes your ability to be satisfied by them.
The truth is that everything we need is being fulfilled in this present moment in a constant flow.
As I take that into my heart, I settle a little more into my home and my community, appreciating the clouds and the women who volunteer at the thrift store. I breath in today’s damp air with gratitude. I know that my new home will be waiting for me when I get there.
All is well – right here and now.
With you on the journey,