How do we stay present in times of uncertainty? And, we are certainly living in times that feel very uncertain right now.
Living in the present and being in the moment, regardless of circumstances, is one of the most challenging things that we can learn how to do. We are habituated in our ways of being and thinking to either be ruminating in the past or thinking—and often worrying—about the future. Our conditioned human nature compels us to pull information out of the past that we can relate to so that we have something to relate with and/or or project onto our future. We create this idea of control to make us feel better. But, does it?
The Past And The Future
Are you thinking about the future? Even with all of the personal and professional tools I’ve developed over the years to help me stay present, I know that I’m concerned about what the future holds. I worry about what will happen in the fall. Will our kids be able to go back to school? Will there be a resurgence of COVID-19? Will we have to go into lockdown again?
Hell, I feel anxious just writing this!
Or, are you mourning the past? Do you often think about the ways things were before COVID-19? How many trips or summer plans have been canceled because of this pandemic? Our 2020 graduates missed proms and graduations. People have lost jobs and many small businesses that took years to develop have been forced to close. Spontaneous gatherings and group activities, eating out, concerts, pools, and some other things that we took for granted are no more right now. Even just walking down the street and needing to distance ourselves from others has become a thing. And, hugs! Is anyone else missing a good solid hug from a friend? I sure am.
Heck, now I feel sad as I write this.
Anxiety And Depression
Many of my clients and friends are struggling with increased anxiety and depression, or experiencing these debilitating feelings for the first time in their lives. Anxiety stems from fear and, many times, it is the fear of the future and the illusions and stories that we make up about it that cause panic and pain. Last month I wrote about forbidding joy in a blog post called Are You Struggling With A Lack Of Joy? What The COVID-19 Virus Might Be Trying To Tell Us. I talked about how catastrophizing the future is a way to “beat vulnerability to the punch,” as Brené Brown often discusses. Essentially, if we focus on the worst-case scenario now and it does, in fact, happen in the future, we can “dress rehearsal for tragedy.” This uncertainty of our future and worst-case thinking has many of us locked in the fear loop of “what if,” rather than living in the present.
Depression is most often created by the unresolved emotional experiences of our past, regrets or memories of times gone by, and the grief that those times are over. We also grieve the opportunities missed. We ruminate over the loss of loved ones, relationships and activities that are no longer present in our lives. We all carry conscious and unconscious memories of our pasts, and it is normal to have feelings related to them. Right now, I think one thing that we are all mourning is past norms. We miss the ways in which we used to operate and our way of doing our lives. I know that I am certainly feeling that.
I am an avid traveler, and to not be able to get on a plane and fly right now is challenging. Is anyone else craving some beach or water time?
Living In The Present
One of my favorite and profound quotes—you’ve probably heard it— by American cartoonist Bil Keane, goes like this:
“Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.”
What if we really could appreciate that this time, this experience, this moment as a gift? What if the gift in the shift is what is truly calling us? What if this pandemic is helping all of us get present to what is? To what is true for us? To what is true for our families, our communities, our divinity and our nation? What could it and would it look like if, even if in these uncertain times, we were fully able to be living in the present?
The mass amounts of “out there” thinking, conspiracy theories and political rhetoric, as well as 24/7 news media has created chaos beyond anything I have ever witnessed. Margaret Wheatley, one of my all-time favorite authors, speaks of Chaos Theory, and writes:
“When chaos erupts, it not only destroys the current structure, it also creates the conditions for a new order to emerge. Change always involves a dark night when everything falls apart. Yet if this period of dissolution is used to create new meaning, then chaos ends and new order emerges.”
Many of us are in a time of extreme chaos, experiencing the “dark night,” and we are not comfortable with that. But, in staying present to this moment, really living in the present, we can use this experience to “create new meaning” for ourselves, our families, our communities and our world.
Eckhart Tolle, the author of The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, says:
“As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out the present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care, and love – even the most simple action.”
What can you do in this present moment, in the chaos of COVID-19, to “imbue a sense of quality, care and love?
Choose Right Here, Right Now To Be Present
I have spent the last several months writing and creating a curriculum called UPROOT that is a culmination of my life’s work to date. I have spent hours upon hours at my computer, reviewing files and books that source my work and collaborating with others to help bring it to life. It’s been a beautiful experience and one that I am excited to share.
If you are not doing what you love at this time, I invite you to get present and ask yourself:
What is wanting to be created?
What is the new order you want in your life?
What could your life be like if you were truly living in the present?
It will be different on the other side of COVID-19. This, we know that for sure. Ruminating on our past or projecting a negative possible outcome on our future is an old habit. Let’s start living in the present and create a new way of being.
For this moment is the only moment available to change anything. You get to choose right here and right now how you want to be.
Here’s to living in the present and enjoying even the smallest gifts of right now.