As a society we’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of “the future”. Without it most sci fi novels or movies wouldn’t exist, hope would fade and Leonard Cohen would never have had his 90s comeback album. But what is it?
The future seems to feature more in the news today than ever before. Financial crisis and what this means to our future, global warming, technological advancement, changes in food, new epidemics all affecting our’s and our children’s future.
Then we read philosophical and spiritual teachings that tell us the future does not exist, all that matters is the future does not exist, all that matters is the present, the “now”, this moment. It’s even spurned top selling books. “Be here now” back in the 70s by Ram Das became hugely popular and a classic of a generation to be followed 30 years later by Tolle’s “The Power of Now” having a similar effect on the minds of seekers in today’s society.
So how do we connect this “future” with the present, the now?
Thought of the future seems to bring on stress and anxiety in most people today. Will I have enough money? What will I have when I retire? Unfortunately, so much energy is wasted in worrying about the future that we deplete our energy supply and reduce what we can do now which in turn affects the future.
It’s here that the advice of being in the moment acts as a panacea for the rising stress about the future. Everything we do now is setting up a pattern, builds a momentum, which directly affects the outcome or what happens next, the future. The future is the result of the combined actions taken now. The choices or decisions we make in responding to the stimuli or information in front of us. In such a sense it’s scientific and simple. Yet how to put this into action and not get caught in the downward slide of worry about the future?
On one of my times in India, sitting with a swami I have known for a while, he told me “you can’t plan any of this.” Thinking about how I have to make plans just to fly somewhere or run a business I replied “what about planning for the things that need to be set up in six months time?” “That’s different” was his answer. This is something I’ve been reflecting on for years since.
In terms of personal growth and spiritual development you cannot plan when anything will happen. In a sense it is saying do not be attached to any expectations. Let go, now. Surrender. It is all in process.
Yet to be successful at anything on the material level the old adage of “failing to plan is planning to fail” holds true. I would call it a spiritual development to be somewhat organized, plan your day, plan the tasks that lie out in front of you and to be diligent about it. The key is giving it your best and not worrying about the outcome.
This is where it has helped me. I cannot determine the future but I can focus as much as possible on what has to be done now. The doing of this now affects what’s coming, my “future” so to speak. Every spiritual master I have come across have had an established routine to an almost perfected level yet seem to radiate a freedom and spontaneity. A sure sign of no stress. To build a playhouse for the children you’ll focus on putting up the walls and foundation. Yet it is the space within this structure where the experience occurs. In a similar way our “future” and personal development is affected by the routine we put down, which sets up a constructive and developmental pattern, both subtle and physical, and out of it comes an experience, a growth. Our future determined by how we approach the “now”.
The trick is to catch yourself dwelling on the future from a fearful, negative or worrying point of view. Change this immediately into what you have to do now. It might be getting up in the morning and doing your yoga practice. Sticking to that day after day. Just like getting up everyday and feeding and dressing the kids affects directly how they grow yet it adds no glamour or freedom into one’s life. Yet done selflessly and with love it gives untold gems, now, and revealed each day as they grow.
Try to apply the teaching of “I am not the doer”, focusing fully on what has to be done now which is a developed skill of how to prioritize. Can you see what has to be done or do your desires and emotional pulls block that? This is the advantage of difficult times as it causes us to focus more directly on the needs over the desires, which is all part of truth and our essential nature.
Whether the future exists or not, somewhere out beyond the time space continuum, expoundings of the theory of relativity and more doesn’t matter and won’t help you. On a subjective level it exists for you in what you’re doing now.
Take care of the now and the future takes care of itself. Be focused and diligent in what you’re doing and then there should be minimal waste, better care for our world, and less anxiety or worry for you. Just get tuned into what has to be done. Now. You will feel vastly better and the world will also improve. In making any plan follow it through but know that the outcome is still beyond us so do not get attached to any particular outcome. Then you allow the beauty and surprises to arrive from your “now” in your “future”.
Consider this the gift in these trying times.
Peace be with you.
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Paul is a senior teacher of Pranayama, Asana and the meditative art and science of Yoga. He has been a dedicated student for over a decade of both Sri O.P.Tiwari, one of the few remaining classical yogis and masters of Pranayama, and the late Sri K. Pattabhi Jois in ashtanga vinyasa. Both of these great teachers have personally certified Paul in these practices, a unique position as the only one to receive this double honor. One of his main gifts is to be able to relate the teachings in a very down-to-earth way for the modern seeker. He does not take life or yoga too seriously and as a result the discussions and philosophical sessions are lively and humorous, helping to explain the meaning behind the practices and philosophy. For more please see his full bio. Paul is the founder and director of Samahita Yoga Thailand, a premier retreat center in Asia, and Centered Yoga, a leading yoga training school since 1999.