Monday, August 22, 2022

Here & Now - What Do You Actually Control?

"If you miss the present moment, you miss your appointment with life."
- Thich Nhat Hanh

It's hard to not live in the present moment when you somehow find yourself in some of the most beautiful places on earth.  Peruvian Andes - 2013

As we go through this world there's really no point in worrying about the future or dwelling on the past.  The past cannot be changed nor can you control what happens in the future.  You only have control over what happens in this exact second... right now... nope, this second... actually this second.  To narrow in further, you can't even control what happens to you in this world, only how you react to what happens to you and how you go through the world from moment to moment.

The future holds only about a billion possible storylines for yourself with a billion different outcomes.  It's best not to worry about any of them, whatever happens... happens.  There is a difference between planning for the future and worrying about the future.  If you realize that your land is consistently experiencing more droughts year after year then taking steps now to ensure you have water secured in the future is prudent planning (such as rain barrels).  If you just dwell on the fact that there's likely a lot more droughts coming in the future and nothing positive is coming from that thinking then... what's the point?

The past holds a more finite amount of storylines that have already occurred and cannot be changed, no matter how much you wish you could change some of them.  However, what has already occurred in the past has made you who you are today so would you actually want to change anything even if you could?  There is a difference between learning from the past and dwelling on it.  Say you planted radishes in the spring, they started growing then instantly bolted and went to seed without the bulb forming much.  As you think about this you may recall that radishes love the cool weather and when you planted them the weather was already getting fairly hot out so perhaps they were planted too late so next year you decide on planting them earlier when the weather is cooler.  That is learning from what has already happened.  If you just focus on the fact that the radishes didn't grow and you're not thinking critically about it to learn from that experience then... what's the point?

This is not to say that avoiding focusing on the past and/or future is easy... it is not... it's actually incredibly hard.  We are human beings with a super computer mind that is constantly going and going and going.  If you try and turn it off, you'll likely only wind it up more, making it go faster.  Just like anything else in life, it takes a lot of practice to focus on the here and now.

Whenever you find yourself fearing or focusing on the future, ask yourself, "Is there anything I can do about this right now at this exact second?  Any action that I can take about this potential future?"  If the answer is no (which it will be the vast majority of the time) then simply tell yourself:

Okay, well I can't do anything about this so let's move on to what I am doing right now.

If the answer is yes then take that action if it seems like a good idea which will bring you back to the present moment.  As you go through this thought process, keep in mind all of the possible outcomes for the future and that you really have no idea what the future actually holds, despite how certain your brain may be about it.

Whenever you find yourself dwelling on the past, ask yourself, "Is there anything I can learn from this right now at this exact second?  Any takeaways from this prior experience?"  If the answer is no then simply tell yourself:

The past cannot be changed and if I don't have anything to learn from it then let's move on to what I am doing right now.

If the answer if yes then focus on what that lesson is and how you can apply it to what you are doing right now, which brings you back to the present moment.

All each of us ever have in our control is what we are doing this exact second and how we react to what happens to us.  The past is great to learn from and it's certainly a good idea to plan for the future but this exact second is what matters most.  When you really think about it the past does not exist nor does the future, the only time that ever truly exists is the exact moment you are living right now while breathing and reading this.

Perhaps you'll walk out to your garden and notice aphids starting to accumulate on your cabbage.  They don't appear to be doing much damage at this exact moment.  You think back to your past and remember that you have previously left the aphids on cabbages and the cabbages turned out just fine.  You also realize that the future could be different, there are a lot of possibilities in what could happen, which makes you tense and nervous.  You realize you can't control the future so you go back to looking closer at the cabbage to confirm they aren't doing much damage right now so you decide to let them be.

The second day you go back out to your garden and the aphid population has grown significantly on the same cabbage, making you nervous again.  They have started to do some damage.  What can you do at this exact moment to prevent damage without interfering too much?  You break out the water hose and rinse off the aphids which makes you feel much better.

The third day, you go back out to your garden and today the aphid population doesn't seem to have grown much in size but now you notice that some slugs have accumulated on the cabbages.  They aren't doing any damage currently nor have slugs done any significant damage in your past so you let them be as you wonder if slugs eat aphids or what is going on there.

The fourth day, you go back out to your garden and today both the aphid and slug populations appear to be under control.  You notice a garter snake slithering nearby which makes you wonder if the garter snakes are snacking on the slugs.  Neither the aphids, slugs or snakes are currently doing any significant damage so you let them all be.

Over the next month as you check on your cabbages daily you consistently notice that everything just seems to be keeping itself in check.  Ladybugs have begun making notable appearances on the cabbages as have wasps which appear to be snacking on the now minimal aphid population.  The slug population appears to be dwindling alongside the garter snake population which appears to be growing.

The second month comes and as you harvest the gigantic cabbage you realize that all of the aphids and slugs have all but disappeared.  You look up and notice a bald eagle flying circles overhead which makes you wonder if the eagle is hunting the snakes.  Regardless, the ecosystem has so far kept itself in check and all you did was wash off the aphids one time with water.  You find yourself glad that you didn't over react to a problem that didn't yet exist and you used what you previously learned to act in the exact moment it was needed.  You're happy that you didn't dwell on any of the billions of potential outcomes for the future, you accepted that whatever happens... happens and it has worked out well for you, no sleep was lost over the past two months about the billions of potential outcomes for the cabbage and tonight you get to enjoy your cabbage that has so far fed many more than just you.

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