Remember then: there is only one time that is important – Now! It is the most important time because it is the only time we have any power.’ Leo Tolstoy
Ever find yourself wondering about the future and getting a nagging, unsettled feeling?
It can be unnerving, can’t it. Looking forward, into the unknown. It sounds like fun, like day-dreaming, but the not-knowing is unsettling. Especially when you’re not making all the decisions on the desired outcome.
I’m currently in the middle of selling my home, aiming to move to the seaside at the other end of the country.
Last night, about midnight, I had one massive, completely out of nowhere, bells, whistles and screaming sirens flap? ‘What if the sale doesn’t go though?’ ‘What if there’s something “wrong”?’ ‘What if the buyers pull out?’ ‘What if the lawyers mess up.’ ’What if…?’
So how do you talk yourself down from the ceiling when you’ve worked yourself up into a lather over the What Ifs?
You might find yourself lying in bed rehearsing a conversation with a difficult colleague or imagining how you’re going to perform in an exam or face speaking in public for the first time in ages.
I like a holistic approach to letting go of the What Ifs… There’s no point trying to get that fear out of your head if you’re starting to hyperventilate.
Calm your body
Lie on your back or stand/sit tall. Collarbone up, shoulder blades drawn down.
Square breathing is an excellent technique that can defuse the physical symptoms of anxiety.
Breathe in for 4.
Hold the breath in for 4.
Breathe out for 4.
Hold the breath out for 4.
This is a basic breathing exercise I’ve taught in yoga classes, and I pass on to clients I see with all manner of issues, from insomnia to anxiety, because it has such an effective, calming strategy for getting the body back to balance.
If 4 feels a bit much, try 3. If 4 feels too little, try 5.
2. Calm your mind
Accept what you can control, let go of what you can’t.
Whether you like it or not, you’re not in charge of the universe. (If only, right?) There’s other people involved in almost any process and you can’t control their behaviour any more than you can sit in front of the sea and turn back the tide. So let that go. Seriously. Let it go.
3. Focus on what you can influence
Take massive action. Get as much done towards you goal as you possibly can. When you’re awake and suddenly your mind flits to the 101 things your lawyer could mess up (yes, back to me!), acknowledge this is flapping, make sure you’re on top of your moving plan and then think about what will go right.
How did I get to sleep last night? I imagined the view from the window of the apartment we might rent until we buy. I visualised the rippling breeze, the smell of the sea, beachside walks and my skin turning golden. I imagine finding a yoga studio, teaching classes, making new friends with ease…
And do you know what? I was off to sleep in 20 minutes. I’m enjoying the life I want without even leaving my bed and if something doesn’t go to plan over the next few months I know I’ll get there. I just need to find another way, because in my dreams I’m living that life already.
Of course we like to think ‘progress’ just keeps making the world better and somehow the next generation will prosper in comparison to us. But what is the reality? Is the planet better off for nuclear fusion? Mass production and globalisation means some of us can have ‘more’, but at what cost?
Has plastic turned out to be such a great thing? Apparently every plastic straw ever manufactured is still on the planet somewhere and busy killing wildlife, if every ecology snippet I see on Facebook has any validity. Was the atomic bomb a great idea? Will we regret creating robots that can do jobs people currently do to earn a living?
Unlike our optimism, or that song by D:Ream, things do not keep on getting better. And that’s just one of those universal laws that effects the path of our lives. Our careers progress in less than a linear fashion. How much money we have or how much the pound is worth is up and down like a fiddler’s elbow over anyone’s lifetime. Even how much we love our partners can vary from day to day. You may adore your partner today, but when they’ve farted on you in their sleep for the third time that night – not so much then, eh? I can’t think of anything that just goes up at 45 degrees..
Yoga teaches us that living in the past or the future is a waste of time, because it’s all about now. Being present in your yoga practice is a large part of the practice. The Mindfulness movement is based on this observation of reality. You can only be here now, so focus on living now. This is it. Yes, now.