Just as living in the past is to be avoided, so too is living in the future.
Someone once told me:
“Those who live in the past suffer from depression, and those who live in the future suffer from anxiety”.
And I can see the truth in these words, having suffered both.
We are constantly living outside of the present moment, and often times we are living in an expected future.
Our minds are making plans for the future, the immediate and the far.
Instead of thinking about where we are now, we are thinking about where we will be.
We think about what we will be having for lunch, what we will be doing after work or on the weekend. We think about where we will be going on vacation, or what tomorrow’s plan will be.
We’re not enjoying the meal we’re eating now, we’re thinking about the plethora of things to come once the meal is done.
We put expectations on the future. We say it will be better or different than right now. But we cannot know this, we cannot know in what way the future will play out. Things change, always, and often in unexpected ways. We make plans about, and for, the future, but we cannot know if these plans will come to fruition.
Best laid plans don’t always come to pass.
Note: There is a key difference between being prepared to handle what the future may bring our way, and living in an expected future. We can be prepared for a zombie apocalypse, (first aid kit, survival pack, buck knife, crossbow, canned food, etc.) but living like it’s the apocalypse (spending our days locked in our underground bunker, distrusting everyone around us, and living in constant fear of human/zombie contact) is certainly no way to live. It’s detrimental to ourselves and those around us.
Why are we not happy right here, right now? What is preventing us from being happy where we are and how we are?
If something is making us unhappy, like our jobs, or our relationships, or anything else that we can change, then change it.
If, on the other hand, we are unhappy about the things we cannot change, then what’s the point? These things are beyond our control, so why allow them to make us unhappy? Simply accept that they are as they are, and turn the attention elsewhere. Focus instead on the things you are grateful for. Concern yourself with the things that are within your power to change, now.
“True happiness is found through contentment in the present moment.”
Let me tell you a story…
I was sitting in our living room in Danang, Vietnam.
Chinese New Year was fast approaching and I was making plans to leave the country. There would be no work and not much to do as I had no family in the country to spend it with.
I was spending hours pouring over travel information, reading up on all the places I wished to visit. Imagining what it would be like walking the streets of Luang Prabang, or traveling by riverboat on the Mekong, or climbing a mountain near Chiang Mai. I envisioned all the wonders I would see and do.
I planned the Sak Yant tattoo I would get from monks in Thailand, the massage school in Bangkok, the bright lights of Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, the temples and stupas of Burma.
It was going to be great!
I mapped out my travels, budgeted my days and nights.
It was meticulous, it was exciting, and it was doomed to failure…
A few days before my planned departure I decided to check my finances, to get an idea of exactly how much money I would have to spend on my Grand Tour.
(I hadn’t checked since arriving in Asia on account of forgetting my online banking password, requiring me to contact by bank by phone back in Canada. I got things sorted after some mild frustration.)
I checked my balance…
My eyes went wide, my blood pressure soared, and my heart dropped.
I sat there starring at the low number as all my visions of adventure vanished before my eyes.
There was no way that all my plans could come to pass on a budget like this…
My flight to Burma was grounded, my tattoo remained ink in a pot, my visa to Laos wouldn’t be stamped, my riverboat stayed docked in port, the city lights dimmed, and the mountain would never be conquered…
All my plans were for naught.
My maps were pointless doodles, a dreamer’s dream, nothing more…
I was left floundering. I didn’t know what to do, I hadn’t planned for this…
I was back to the drawing board.
I threw away all my plans and made a new one…
Point A to Point B,
that was it.
I could make that happen; everything else was in the hands of fate.
I booked one train ticket and took everything else as it came.
I came to each place with ideas, but no plans.
Plans can fail, ideas are simply ideas, as immaterial and fluid as all things in this world tend to be.
Like castles in the sand, torn down and built anew.
So what came of this?
Well here I am in rural Cambodia, in my second month in this country (a longer stay than planned 😉 ), volunteering at an orphanage, teaching English to adorable Cambodian children and attending Khmer weddings.
Taking things as they come. No plans, just ideas.
I have an idea where I will go next and when, but it is not a plan, I make no plans, I have only ideas, fluid and immaterial.
Perhaps I will stay here longer (I’ve already stayed longer than planned).
Perhaps I will head to Phnom Penh, perhaps Kampot.
Perhaps I will head west to Thailand, perhaps north or east.
Perhaps I will find some monks to meditate with.
Perhaps I will head to the ocean or to the mountains.
Who knows these things?
Certainly not I.
I merely have ideas.
I leave the plans to Jah…
and may you be prepared for whatever the future may bring, but have no expectations.