I think many of us suffer from the same self-imposed affliction. Some call it the if-then syndrome, but most will recognize it as a perpetual waiting game. Life will begin when . . . I’ll be happy when . . . I graduate from college, I make X amount of money, I find my true love, I visit Iceland, I beat Candy Crush, I no longer lose my temper, I understand women, I understand men, I understand myself, I lose 15 pounds, the list can go on ad infinitum but its a tricky, tricky state of mind. One that will keep us waiting forever.
The thing is, the goal post is always moving. Once you get to that point you set up in the first place, you will create another point in some distant or even near future. For example: I will be happy when I graduate from college, Oh! I’ll be done when I finish grad school! Or maybe when I get that promotion . . . no, definitely, definitely, when I get married, life will begin, I’ll start living when I have kids . . . after the kids grow up, go to college, when I pay off college, or maybe when I retire, I can finally relax and be happy, but what about the afterlife? Does it sound familiar? Does it feel familiar?
There is hope at last, I really do think so. I was listening to Marianne Williamson’s Miracle Thought podcast and she was talking about how the ego likes to keep us in the future or in the past and this is one really pervasive and tricky method it uses. It keeps us from “meaningfully dwelling in the present moment” as Williamson describes it. Now, think back to all the times you were truly happy, weren’t they all times where you were inextricably in the present moment? No thought in the future or past, but firmly grounded in the here and now? A lot of folks take to thrill seeking activities because it brings us to present, it kind of leaves no choice but to, but we can practice this on our own without taking to incredible heights, insane speeds or whatever extreme. We can recognize the aversion and raise our awareness, pay attention to that egoic voice pointing in other directions and stop postponing our happiness. Life will not being when _______, but life has already begun; the only question is, will we recognize it and be a full participant, or continue to armchair orchestrate and miss all that it is offering, every single moment?
Practical practice: For the next day, keep inventory of your minds “location”, is it here and now or thinking of something that happened, or will happen, or might happen? If it is not firmly set in the present, gently bring it back. A good way to do this is fully immerse yourself in the sights and sounds, touch and feel of where you are. Notice the tiny details you may have previously overlooked. It’s nice to do this on a walk, you can breathe in the fresh air, watch the tree’s leaves dancing around, look afar and give those computer-worn eyes a break, smile at strangers, feel the wind. All that stuff, and all the while, when you find your mind wondering, return to home and say thank you because if you can cultivate this gift within yourself, you are really putting yourself in a position of power in the only place it can exist; here and now.