It’s trendy these days to think and talk about “the power of Now” or “being in the moment,” and you know, I really hate to be trendy. But I have to say that this is a powerful idea for me. It’s eye-opening when I stop to realize how much of the stress, fear, etc., in my life, is not about what’s happening to me right now, but about things that happened in the past that I haven’t let go of, or about things that might happen in the future. If I could learn to stay in the present, so much of that would be avoided.
I’m better off than a lot of people because to a large extent my mind is wired for the present and I don’t worry nearly as much about possible bad things happening as some people do. Yet I still find it hard not to let my brain go hopping all over the timeline, distracting me from the moment at hand. Today was a prime example.
I had nothing particular to do at lunch and as I headed over to the canteen, I noticed that it had stopped raining for the first time in days, that the temperature was mild and the air had a fresh, clean smell. It was a nice day. As I left the canteen and took bite of the worst turkey and dressing sandwich in the history of turkey or dressing — or, indeed, sandwiches — I thought, “I could go for a walk.”
There’s a lovely walking trail around a pond right across from my workplace, and it only takes about 20 minutes to walk, so I had plenty of time. I headed down towards the pond, determining to throw out the remainder of the sandwich at the first trashcan I passed.
Then I thought, “Do I really want to walk the trail around the pond on the 10th of January? Look at all those walkers and joggers out there, desperately trying to keep up with their New Year’s resolution to get more exercise. I’m no better than they are. I’ve tried in the past to get into a regular routine of walking this trail a couple of lunchtimes a week, and I’ve never stuck with it. If I do it today, I probably won’t keep doing it regularly, and then I’ll just be like all those pathetic people.”
Then I stopped and made my brain shut up. Wow, I thought, see what my brain just did there? I almost talked myself out of a nice, refreshing walk that I really wanted to take on a pleasant day, because of things that I had or hadn’t done in the past, and things I might not do in the future. I pulled myself right out of now and into then, and almost lost the now moment.
Today is the only day I have. Today I went for a walk around the pond because today I wanted to, and I had time to. I went back to the moment I was actually in, and laid aside thoughts of past or future. I can’t change the past and I don’t need to control the future, I told myself. I can just be here now, and go for a walk.
So I did.