Have you ever walked down the street, and then got to the end and thought ‘how on earth did I get here’?
You can probably recall how you walked from A to B, but can you truly remember the steps, the sounds, the sm
ells, the views, the actual experience of getting there and what it felt like?
When I asked myself this question I realised that I couldn’t remember, not just on the odd occasion either, but at least once a day. The sudden notion that I was missing chunks of time from my day, weeks, even months had me intrigued (and slightly concerned).
I’m one of the many millions of people who operate at 100 miles an hour, in 6th gear, never switching off, always pushing forward, but most of all thinking… incessantly thinking! Sometimes I’d think about the past, but I almost exclusively lived in the future.
Little did I realise that by living in this constant state of thinking and forward planning, I was literally thinking my life away. I never lived in, or appreciated, the present moment. The most destructive outcome of this state of mind was that I was never happy with anything I had, because in the future there was always something ‘bigger and better’ to strive for.
Another side effect was the impact it had on my relationships. Friends and family would call me out on a regular basis, either for not listening or just staring right through them. I got to a place in my life where it felt uncomfortable and I wanted it to stop, so I went into action (obsession) mode.
Fast forward two years of ‘inner work’ that involved everything from questioning the meaning of life, to studying the self, Jung’s theory, alternative healing, learning how to meditate, reading, watching You Tube, podcasts and digesting just about every piece of material I could get my hands on. I was making reasonable progress in understanding the drivers behind my behaviour, and what I could do to help resolve it, and then one day I finally read one book where it just hit me, like a freight train. The message simply said (not in these exact words):
There is no past, it no longer exists. There is no future, it’s never existed. At any given moment and at any point in time there is ONLY EVER THE NOW.
That one message changed my perception of reality forever (dramatic but true!). It’s the realisation that nothing exists outside of this moment, and by not appreciating the now and being in the moment, I wasn’t truly appreciating life.
It’s funny looking back to think that I’d spent so many hours of study to try to get to the bottom of this thing, for a message that seemed so simple, to just come along and bring it all together.
I want to appreciate life, so I practise spending every moment, of every day, being in the now. It’s more commonly known as practising ‘mindfulness’ and there are literally thousands of expert articles and books to read, videos to watch and pod casts to listen to.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no expert, and I’ve by no means cracked this thing
. I attended a CFA conference only this week where a neuro-scientist delivered a fantastic presentation explaining which function of the brain is responsible for the incessant thinking, and which function of the brain we can turn on to counter-act it. To say my mind was blown was an understatement, and I love that this is a continuous learning experience.
I suppose my main message is that if you’re like me, and sometimes get to the end of the street and wonder how you got there, then you’re potentially not spending as much time in the present as you could be… and therefore could be missing out on some of the experiences life has to offer, no matter how small they may be.
In my next post I’ll discuss how being in the now has improved my life and give you some tips on how to put it into practise!
Catherine Cornwall, Director