|Sent on:||Wednesday, November 5, 2008 5:45 AM|
While its probably somewhere 'near' the truth to say most of us spend large amounts of our time and attention in the past (last weeks article) there are a few of us who spend even more time in the future. We get caught in the possibilities of tomorrow, the idea that better times lie ahead. This is one of the factors that keep us trapped in the promises of the 'marketing machines' by which we are surrounded. Their mission in life is to keep us connected to a happier future by striving to earn and acquire what they have to offer us now.
The idea that the future is winging its way to us with a better life keeps our attention riveted to the road ahead, and on what 'might be' just around the next bend. When 'the many' believe in the idea that the future is brighter than the present, and that the future can be acquired, a few of the many will become extremely wealthy in material terms. And so we get busy now so that the future will not pass us by. We never quite wake up to the fact that the future is only and always just an ideal that can never be real, that there is no future, only always and forever now. It seems we either become so hopeful or so bedazzled by possibility we just don't see it is simply the shimmering illusion of a thirsty man in the desert who believes he can see an oasis on the horizon, only to find it is always on the horizon!
Just as escaping into the past is a way of avoiding the present moment, so too flitting into the future is also an avoidance of now. It is one of egos tricks to keep itself alive and keep us from realising who we really are. There are different ways we attempt to run into the future.
They are the most frequent visitors to an unhappy future. Always creating images of forthcoming catastrophes, they frighten themselves by watching their own fearful stories of what might happen. They will even justify their worries by saying, "But I worry because I care." They have not yet realised that worry is never care simply because worry is fear and care is love, and the two can never meet. "But I am worried about the other", they say, little realising they are really fearing how they will feel if something happens to 'the other'.
They are the compulsive goal setters, always looking to the next aim/target/goal. They are lost without the possibility of future achievement. Whether it's because they strive for the recognition and approval of others, or it's simply the feeling of arrival after a long effortful journey, or they believe they have to deserve to be happy by working hard, the achievers happiness is always short lived. They mistake happiness for the relief, the relief at having reached a point where they can stop striving and struggling. But it's not long before the need for the 'fix' of a new goal, a new challenge, a new struggle, is required in order to affirm their successfulness!
Close behind worriers are desirers. Their mental mantra is 'I want' and the object of desire can be anything from more time to more stuff, from more loving relationships to a better world. Desirers can be satisfied but only momentarily. That's because the motive behind all desire is the belief that when the object of desire is achieved or acquired then the 'self' will be complete. If you've ever wondered why desires come in long never ending queues, it is because the self can never be satisfied or completed by anything outside itself. Only when we realise we are already complete and need to acquire no thing to know our completeness, will we rediscover 'real' peace and happiness. Only in the freedom from all wanting can the peace and contentment arise from the place, from the 'inner space', where it has always been.
And then there are those who float into imagined futures at the first appearance of a happy thought of tomorrow. They don't desire something in the future because they are already there, living it. Where? On the screen of their minds. At the drop of a futuristic hat they can tune out of present reality and into an image of their own making, a movie of their own production and a story of an idealistic future that they create in their heads. As their eyes glaze over in mid conversation you can always tell when the dreamer is no longer present. As we cajole them to 'come back' we accuse them of not being grounded in 'reality. But they aren't interested in our reality, which they see as misery. They are off to their own fictional paradise, which for them is much more real.
Always on the move, and if not moving always talking about going somewhere, especially when they have to sit still in one place for too long. The traveller is always planning their next journey. They are always working towards the next adventure, which is usually a long way away from 'here'. They are known for their itchy feet. And while their journeys will include staging posts, they are exactly that, not places to settle in, just a quick 'in-breath' and onto the next stage. They don't dream they plan, they don't desire so much as anticipate. In fact if you pin a traveller down they will say the anticipation is often greater than the realisation. They don't even stop for long to 'achieve their destination', but just keep moving and moving and moving. The only way a traveller stops is either exhaustion or the penny eventually drops and there is the realisation they are running from themselves. Most find it too scary to stop, as they will have to look at their addiction to 'the journey'. Philosophers are also travellers! Theirs is a journey into ideas and concepts. It can be a painful truth when the philosopher realises there is no journey. But it is also liberating.
Fruit pickers look as if they are fully present. They look as if they are totally focussed and attentive to the moment and meeting the needs of now. But underneath their 'seeming' to be here they have a motive that says, "What I do now will bear fruit in the future, and I am going to pick, eat and enjoy the sweet fruit of life in the future by making sure what I do now sows and grows that fruit." Fruit pickers are rewards driven. What they do today is shaped by the knowledge of a personal reward in the future. They understand what is sometimes referred to as 'karma', or cause and effect, not in terms of rewards in the next life, but rewards next week or next year. So with one eye on today and the other on tomorrow, one foot in the now and the other in 'then', they live with a subtle tension caused by their attempt to split their attention.
And then there are players. They are the most enlightened ones. They know that there is no future, only now. They are not tied to an ideal of what might or could be tomorrow, they are not driven by a desire to achieve. They have no inclination to go anywhere because they have realised there is only here, and that wherever they go there they are! And they worry not about what might be, because deep within themselves they know that whatever will be will be is what's meant to be. So they are free. And it is that freedom that allows them to stay light in the present. And light 'plays' as it illuminates, lightness dances and chases the darkness away from the darkest corners. Their en'light'ened state allows them to realise life is specifically designed for its players to be playful. And that those players are 'us'! And paradoxically, as they playfully share the lightness of their life with all life, without a care for the morrow, their future is guaranteed to be a happy one. But the moment they are trapped by the idea, which becomes a belief, that the future 'matters', the weight of that belief becomes their burden, blocking their light, turning into the darkness of worry, and life begins to become somewhat serious and heavy. It will be seen first on their face, which is the mirror of their heart.
So how on earth can we begin to live in such a 'playful' manner when all around us there are so many 'seemingly' heavy, serious and worrisome events taking place? Events that our friends in the media often seem to delight in packaging up and delivering to the doorstep of our intellects with grave consequences. Events that are positioned in such a way that we are encouraged to see them as a 'threat' to our individual and collective future. How on earth does the player become the player in such a context? Wrong question! How does the player realise they are and have been a player all along? Only by 'seeing through' the inherited illusions that life is meant to be a stressful, serious, dangerous, survival course. Only by realising that life is just a game and there is no other purpose but to 'play the game'.
And so next week 'instant enlightenment' or The Rules of the Game ���but remember there is no next week���right now!
Question: Which of the above profiles describes your journeys into the future most
Reflection: Why do you think you spend so much time in your mind in an imagined future?
Action: Review each day this week and pinpoint the precise moments your attention/thoughts/conversations went into the future and why