The idea of mindfulness, that we should be really completely absorbed in the present moment, is very powerful.
And the argument that there is nothing except the present moment also perfectly makes sense.
Our sense of time really is up to our own imagination, in some way.
We imagine this sort of line of time, and the past and the future, projecting this imaginary image onto them.
When really, the only thing that actually exists is the present moment.
So this is all very true and very useful.
But on the other hand, it can also be a trap to be too much in the present moment.
Now, maybe if you’re like a perfect sage mystic enlightened Zen master, then you can really live endlessly in the present, but it seems to me like for the average person, being always in the present can also just be this kind of endless hunger and discomfort, where the way you feel in that little moment becomes your entire life.
If you really are absorbed entirely in the present moment, and you feel terrible in the present moment, then you are going to feel like your entire existence is that feeling terrible.
In order to see beyond that, you have to have some imagination, some idea that the way that I am now is not always going to be the way I am forever.
It seems to go against the idea of mindfulness and being absorbed in the present, and yet it can be very useful for us to remove ourselves from the thinking of the present moment, and actually use the fact that we can imagine the past and the future.
And yes, we can acknowledge, maybe, on a physical/metaphysical level, that the past and the future are not real, and they are just our projected imagination, but we can use that projection in a useful way, as a tool to help us as we go through the unfolding present moment into the “future”.
We can use this sense of past and future.
So one way to look at it is to imagine this timeline of past and future, and you can imagine how this present moment would look from somewhere else in time.
So you could be totally absorbed in this present moment, and then imagine, what would this moment be like from the past? You could imagine yourself long ago, imagining, you know, what would things be like? You know, “Wow, 2020.
I can’t believe that- I can’t even imagine what the world will be like in 2020, and how my life will be at that age”, and just seems like this whole imaginary future.
We can then look at this same present moment that we’re in, and you’re imagining it from the point of view of seeing it from long ago, when the present was the distant future.
That gives a different look on what’s going on.
It really lets me imagine this same moment differently, and maybe calls to mind some of the way that I felt back then, and whether or not my present is better or worse than what I might have imagined, but hey, the distant future is never something that you can really clearly imagine in any way.
But at one point, this present moment was a distant future.
And similarly, we can look into the distant future from now, and there will be a time when this present moment is part of the distant past, the long ago past that it just seems incredible to imagine, like “Wow, I was once around in the year 2020.
Those were the days”, you might say, or “Those were terrible times and I’m thankful I got through it.” However you look at it, one day we will look back on this time, this year, this present moment, as being this faraway past.
So it’s still the same present moment, but I especially find this future view, imagining myself in the future looking back on this: this can be helpful for me in changing my perspective, so that if I’m not feeling good in the moment, that I understand that this is part of a whole story.
It’s part of a whole long journey that at some point in the future I will look back at, and this will be some point in the past, just another step along the way.
So that I’m not endlessly stuck in this present forever, but it’s just one little piece of my life.
And if I’m feeling great at the moment, then it’s still the same thing.
Whether we’re up or we’re down, this moment will pass and will soon become part of the past.
So as valuable as mindfulness and absorption in the present is, I also find it powerful to be able to bring this perspective, where you can swing ourselves out into the distant past, looking forward to this moment, imagining it in the distant future, or we can swing out to the distant future, and imagine looking back at this moment as being in the distant past.
So that we can have new perspectives on this moment, break out of the focus entirely on being absorbed in the moment, and look at things from a bigger perspective.
So I’d be curious to hear if you use a tool like this, and how the present looks to you, from your imagination of either the past or the future.
#timeperspective #futureofthepast #pastofthefuture