Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness. ~James Thurber
Not that I have a lot of it spare, but I have been thinking about time quite a bit lately — the non-existance of, the travel through, the wastes of.
You reading me often and in various places must have noticed I have a monkey mind … and I’m not talking evolutionary remnants of a brow ridge but the aptly descriptive Buddhist term for one whose brain is: unsettled; restless; capricious; whimsical; fanciful; inconstant; confused; indecisive; uncontrollable. Yeah … that would be what happens under my hair most of the time, illuminated here in an article listing six steps to living in the moment.
“We’re living in a world that contributes in a major way to mental fragmentation, disintegration, distraction, decoherence,” says Buddhist scholar B. Alan Wallace. We’re always doing something, and we allow little time to practice stillness and calm.
When we’re at work, we fantasize about being on vacation; on vacation, we worry about the work piling up on our desks. We dwell on intrusive memories of the past or fret about what may or may not happen in the future. We don’t appreciate the living present because our “monkey minds,” as Buddhists call them, vault from thought to thought like monkeys swinging from tree to tree.
I’m a worrier by nature, a ponderer by profession and with a conscience that rarely has me leaving things to rest, all which have me agitating and ruminating when I should just be experiencing.
Today’s Huff Post puts me in this moment, however, so I pause to consider the ideas in an article called: How Often Are We on Mental Autopilot? You Might Be Surprised.
Although I’m not surprised a study suggests people spend 46.9% of their brain time doing a wander, nor that most don’t consider it a particularly happy path, there is some interesting science in the report.
They discovered that people have two distinct ways of interacting with the world, using two different sets of networks. One network for experiencing your experience involves what is called the “study by Kirk Brown found that people high on a mindfulness scale were more aware of their unconscious processes. Additionally these people had more cognitive control, and a greater ability to shape what they do and what they say, than people lower on the mindfulness scale. If you’re on the jetty in the breeze and you’re someone with a good level or mindfulness, you are more likely to notice that you’re missing a lovely day worrying about tonight’s dinner, and focus your attention onto the warm sun instead. When you make this change in your attention, you change the functioning of your brain, and this can have a long-term impact on how your brain works too.
Living where I do and working from my veranda, I have developed the habit of pulling myself out of my work or my ass or wherever my head might be at any given moment at intervals throughout the day to take some time to gaze upon and appreciate the beauty on offer. Right now, it’s a sapphire sea, the viridescent forest and a few puffy, white clouds navigating their way westward that fill my soul right along with my eyes. Throw in a couple of long-tailed tropic birds and the fruit bats in my jack fruit tree and I’m breathing again in that way I forget to breathe when my mind is full of whatever I’m writing, my heart is heavy with longing for what is no more and my nerves fray with concern over the illusive ‘what’s next’.
Inspired by beautiful music, I once wrote for the description of the video that went along with it:
“For me, one of the most precious gifts the universe gives is the Now, and the Now embraced is the Eternal Hug … a gift without conditions of past or future, but only the joy of the moment. And what is life but a series of moments?
The moments bringing those words are now in my past, but I can and do continue to conjure their joys.
It’s remembering to do it that’s the key:
“Mindfulness is a habit, it’s something the more one does, the more likely one is to be in that mode with less and less effort… it’s a skill that can be learned. It’s accessing something we already have. Mindfulness isn’t difficult. What’s difficult is to remember to be mindful.” I love this last statement. Mindfulness isn’t difficult: the hard part is remembering to do it.
Having studied the work of Abraham Maslow way back when, I trust his assessment of moments.
The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness.
But life does do its bit to beat that out of a girl, doesn’t it?
I’m not one for wallowing in regrets, and it’s too often the future that robs me of moments; not the desire of it, but the anxiety over having some asteroid of shit fall from this clear blue sky and splatter on my life. It’s an ancestor who provides perspective and a bit of solace on this concern:
The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time. ~Abraham Lincoln
True enough, thankfully, and one day leads to another.
Yep. This moment is now the past and the next is still the future and each letter I type becomes a sentence and sentence is a pretty good description of life.
As for quantum physics and that business about the past, like the future, being indefinite and existing only as a spectrum of possibilities … well, I rather like a poet’s version today:
Forever is composed of nows.