This Time Tomorrow …
It was a Saturday morning. Fleetingly, as I awoke and checked the time as being 7.45am, I thought, “Mmm, this time last week I was on a train speeding towards London Paddington.”
When we get notions like this they are pivotal moments, for we can go in a number of directions with these trains of thought. My direction was … how much warmer and sunnier the weather is, one week on; and then – because I keep the Now purely for Now’s sake – I considered today’s scheduled activity and then got up.
Of course, I could have taken any number of other trains of thought – and to be honest I have spent many, many years of my life in taking a very much different set of trains. These are the trains of reflection into memories, or they are the trains of projection into possibilities. The thing about these trains is – because they are not actually in the present they aren’t really going anywhere; and when we board trains that aren’t going anywhere and we’re the kind of person who takes a lot of these mental ‘journeys’, then we tend to be living our lives on those trains and not in the Now, in the present.
Am I rambling here?
I used to stammer quite badly when I was younger but particularly on words beginning with certain letters such as B, M, P – where speech involves starting with the lips together. As you can imagine, I had great issues with introducing myself: “What’s your name?” “P-p-p…” It just preframed every interaction and said exactly who AND what I was. It was all part of my shyness – and I guess that part of the shyness was a front to avoiding talking and the stammer. If I was with friends or family, however, the stammer and the shyness dissolved.
Of course, the process of speech formation is an unconscious one, so for me the “making conscious” of an unconscious process had the same kinds of effect as thinking to swallow, or thinking to blink, or thinking to breathe. Thinking gets in the way of all these processes – and, especially now, I see how much it affects people I work with in terms of getting in the way of their performance.
Anyway – back to “This time last week”…
The more we operate within our memories, the more we are walking through now and into our future but facing the past.
I used to run alternate scenarios with some memories where I wasn’t happy with things I’d said or done. “If only I’d said ‘this’ instead then things would have been different. If I’d done ‘that’ action then the course of history would have been changed.” Things would be much better now as a result – but they aren’t – so I am not comfortable with Now.
I have regrets; I don’t feel so good about myself; what will people be thinking of me…etc.
It all led to me wanting to be so totally sure of myself in the Now, that I would try and think it all through. I would want to be sure I could do something before I did it. It was better that people didn’t see me doing something not very well – or (horror of horrors) failing. So my strategy was to not attempt it. This didn’t just involve actions, it also involved talking to strangers
So what about the other propensity for disengaging with Now, which we can label as:
“This time tomorrow”
We have a “particular day” coming up. Now this could be an exciting day, a special day, or it could be a day of trepidation, a day we are dreading. By “particularising” it we are already building it up, and – if it involves our input somewhere along the line – we’re probably running a whole selection of “what if” scenarios as well.
Now I’m not talking about rehearsal here, where we might physically run through a speech, some moves in a game, or various other tactical or process elements of performance. These are good things because they are a replication of the sensual embodiment of what we will be doing or saying.
No, I’m talking about the churning over of stuff in our heads – where we are stimulating our thinking to guide us through what we believe will be ONE particular outcome from a number of possibilities. So “all angles are covered.”
Now, if this really works for you then keep doing it. However, there may come the day when happenings at a cosmic level contrive to present at an event you are engaged in – something which you had not foreseen and thought through or rehearsed your part. It’s just a thought you understand!
Future imaginings, like past dwellings, are very good ways of guiding us into being “too much in our heads.” Worrying, anxiety, obsessions, phobias, panic attacks, hoarding clutter, and (in my case) stammering, are all examples of how we cultivate a detachment from Now, the present, by our excessive imagination, our over thinking.
Although Gordon B Hinckley said “You can’t plough a field simply by turning it over in your mind,” we can get to be very good at ruining our ability to really engage with the present by turning just about everything else over in that self same mind.
Lao Tzu’s advice is much more apposite: “Stop thinking, and end your problems.”
So be your own train spotter, and watch out for the “This time last week” or “In a month from now” cues. They are clues as to where your trains of thought may take you – and if you find yourself going “Down Memory Lane” too much or regularly taking a whistle stop tour on the “Future Express”, remember there is every likelihood before too long you will find yourself “Up The Junction”.