There’s a fine line between visualizing future successes and foregoing mindfulness, a line that many of us involuntarily cross too often. Instead of maintained focus on the ongoing act or circumstance, we anticipate a proceeding state in the near future.
Regretfully, we do so with the intent not to facilitate reaching a goal, but merely to suspend immersion from the raw moment.
The extent of this inadvertent time travel can range from minutes to months ahead. Perhaps some ambitiously venture into the frontiers of an even further distant future.
I’ve been fortunate to largely keep within a 3-month window for any conductive or inhibiting time travel. But even this ails the mind with anxiety and discontent.
Let’s avoid the vicious habit by adhering to the following strategies.
When you walk or hike, visualize not your destination, nor the time remaining, but the current stride and the immediate surroundings. Be it that you’re exhausted, emphasize the journey over the destination; the ascent (however grueling) over the ultimate mountain peak. Find appreciation and pleasure in the act.
When you mediate, focus on each breath, not on the time remaining, not on your discomfort, not on the stream of ideas that vehemently lures us away.
Even possessed by hunger, refrain from counting the minutes to the upcoming meal (or coffee break). Return to the task at hand and mindfully proceed.
Late into the evening, physical and mental reserves depleted, don’t anticipate the minutes remaining before sleep. Likewise, don’t seek to suspend the mind with cognitive malice. Rather, retreat into your inner faculty and ponder your existence. Or appreciate the rainfall.
Don’t skip ahead in a book. Don’t count the pages to the next chapter or even the paragraph. Imbibe each word and phrase as if it were the last.
A traveller or nomad can lose sense of purpose, feel severe fatigue or even face melancholia. This is quiet normal. In such a state, it becomes especially alluring to imagine alternate realities: regions you shall occupy in forthcoming travel, places you dream of one day exploring, different ways of being.
Immersed in one exotic region, the mind already anticipates another. In the urban, the mind fantasizes of the amazonian. In the amazonian, it seeks fancy in the wasteland. In the wasteland, it appeals to the conglomerate.
While a curious exercise of visualization from time to time, don’t yield to it too readily as means to suspend and escape. Recall why you are where you are. Reestablish that interest.
Find the meaning in your present circumstance. Stare at it deep into the jaw. Let yourself be carried along all extremities of the whirlpool. Engage and reengage your environment.
At a rendezvous, don’t anticipate or depend on the missing party too anxiously. Find calmness and purpose within yourself. Leverage your solitary faculty and face the moment as if the rendezvous was but an illusion.
On a bus or metro, don’t anxiously count down to the desired station. Return to the present moment of discomfort and learn to disregard it.
Perform each exercise motion as if bound to no end; as if indentured to endless repetition at the will of Hades. Don’t lose focus. Don’t count the remainder. Don’t take pity on yourself.
Resist the urge to prematurely compile. Associate the maxim not necessarily with just writing code, but also structuring HTML, building a slide presentation, constructing a scientific (Latex) document, digital design, blog post formatting, or any incremental pursuit that abstracts work from the final presentation. Focus thoroughly on each step in the process.
Such a vicious habit of ours is this practice to constantly remain one or more steps ahead, to escape the process, to warp into the foreseeable. Yet not every endeavor is a chess match. Most of our journey comprises an infinitely differentiable gradient of movement not warranting of analytics or performance measure.
If still struggling with the cases presented above, take comfort in these few additional tips.
- Slow down even further, to the point of exaggeration.
- Stop, observe, refocus.
- Have a reminder trigger. This may include a mantra, a bracelet, or (ironically) some visual.
- Don’t obsessively glance at the time when not strictly bound by it. Hide the clock from easy access.
- Don’t even have a fixed destination. Just embark on a journey.
Questions, comments? Connect.