It’s easy to get the idea that being in the present (which basically means being mindful) means you’re not focused on the past or the future. You’re paying attention to the here and the now. Doing, however, isn’t as easy as knowing.
The Key Word is “Focus.”
Being mindful doesn’t mean ignoring the past or future. Some attention to each has purpose.
For example, when you are planning to mail something, you might remember that you once mailed a package without insuring it or making sure that it had a tracking number. Therefore, you decide that you will be sure to take both of these steps when you mail this package. This demonstrates a simple and practical reference to both past and future.
Sometimes, though, we complicate it. In remembering the lost package, you might berate yourself, wondering why you were so stupid. You might recall all the trouble that resulted from that lost package.
You might go about trying to enjoy your day, but you find yourself unable to lose yourself in a good book or exercise because whenever you start to relax, you tell yourself, “I have to remember about the package. And what if it gets lost, anyway?” You begin to worry.
When Identity Gets Involved
This week I had a lost-package issue. I needed to send the original copy of a necessary legal document to someone else. I was vocal about my reluctance to do this, but the authorities in the situation insisted.
Then it appeared that the document got lost. My first reaction was, “Why didn’t they listen to me?” (a variant of “I told you so.”). My second was “Why doesn’t anyone ever listen to me?”
I was flooded with memories from my childhood when it seemed that no one had listened to me, accompanied by pain and anger. None of it was fun, but the opportunity occurred to step back and see how these childhood incidents had given rise to beliefs that filtered my present experience and influenced the future. I believed that no one listened to me, and I got evidence for that belief.
Mindfulness Can Help Clear Out the Past
I’m not going into specific details about the method I used. It’s called EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), and if you haven’t heard about it, you can read more here.
It’s not the only method that works. People can get relief through meditation, mindful breathing, and other techniques. The vital first step is to recognize that a persistent regret or worry or any negative emotion is keeping you from fully experiencing the present. Once you have that mindful awareness, you’re on your way.
By the way, so was my document. I got it yesterday.