past and future

People do amazing things. We are capable to do amazing things. If people are doing things and have the potential to do more, why do many of us feel like we are stuck? Not everyone may feel this way right now, but my guess is most have felt this way at one or more times in their life.

At Wisdom 2.0, we hear how people connect within to do great things externally. In our spirit dance, we also feel the uncertainty, fear, hesitation, and emotional churn in getting to the point of doing what we are called to do. A conversation between Jon Kabat-Zinn and Byron Katie burst out a realization that we skip being present. Instead, we spend too much time in the past, which can lead to feeling depressed. On the other end, we think about our future and develop a fear of stepping toward it.

In the middle of the past and future, we have a choice. We can get stuck in the tug of war between the past and future. Or, we can be present in the moment. My visual of this conversation is below.

being present

A wrestle begins.

In the Middle: A Mindful Option

Where are we? Are we:

  • Focused on what was or could have been?
  • Focused on what can be or should be?
  • Muddled in the middle?

Being present in the moment sounds like a lot mindfulness messiness. What does being present really mean? Being present sounds like something a new age person does, right?

I wrestle with this.

In conversations, a thought struck me.

For me, the model described in the Jon Kabat-Zinn and Byron Katie conversation did not fit perfectly. A new one began to develop in my thoughts.

The past is not being depressed. The past contains many experiences and influences. Learning from each is vital, as is knowing what influences are important to drop and which ones are important to carry forward. Most of all, the past is time spent. The more past we have, the less future we have.

The other end of the spectrum is our future. The future does not contain fear. The future contains anticipation. A certain longing to have a bigger impact.

In the middle of past and future is our presence. Presence is important. What presence means is to:

  • Be patient in conversations and experiences
  • Listening to supportive and challenging voices
  • Participating actively in our selected communities
  • Adjusting as we learn
  • Doing the necessary work
  • Building momentum of connecting people and pathways forward

Presence is more than these undertakings. Being present requires us to be entangled in purpose and character.

presence in purpose

Presence without having a purpose seems hollow. Hollowness can be dangerous if we fill this space with ulterior motives in our conversations or work. We may not always have clarity in our purpose and, at times, that is okay. Having just a purpose inkling may keep us alive in the moment.

Presence without character is dangerous, too. Without character, we prey. We look for self-centered opportunities. Character keeps our presence filled with integrity-filled empathy. What character delivers is a focus on how we can help and what we can do together when our purposes align. If our purposes do not align, we are honest about it and still lend an ear and hand as appropriate.

“Being present” is not ignoring our past. Our past influences us.

“Being present” is not avoiding the future. Our future builds anticipation in us.

In both the past and future, we are present in our individual work and collaborative efforts, wrapped in an understanding of what positive impact we are striving toward.

Mindful Pitfalls: Past and Future

Understanding our past and future is important.

Our past has certain experiences and influences. Not all of them will be positive. We will have a mix. Depending on our life circumstances, we may have more negative than positive or more positive than negative. With our purpose defined, we may not have the right experiences and influences to propel us as quickly into our new future as we would like. The result is impatience and looking for shortcuts.

No shortcuts enable a sustainable, positive future, so we need to do the work to create the experiences that will help us the most today and find the best influencers to guide us along the way.

Our future may be clear, at least in what we would like to do and be. We can feel it, and the possibility energizes us. However, we cannot be anxious. A wide-awake approach will keep us focused on the daily work and the sustainable relationships. We show up fully in our purpose and character in each – in our work and our relationships. Being fully present is a way to describe this path forward in a more personal way.

Mindfulness: Our Life

Being fully present in character and purpose leverages our past experiences in a growth-oriented way. Being fully present in character and purpose keeps us centered in our pursuit of our bigger future impact.

We need healthy practices to avoid our pitfalls and stay true to our vision. Being present is active and proactive while feeling planted in our foundation of what we want to create.

Mindfulness keeps us centered while listening well within and all around, discerning what matters and taking thoughtful action forward.

How does mindfulness impact your life and work?