Mark Twain once said that his life had been filled with many tragedies, most of which never happened. Like all the best comedy, this contains a tragic truth about the human condition.
I was asked once, “If mindfulness is about being in the present, can one mindfully plan for the future?” It’s a good question, especially as we’re approaching a new year.
First, many of our ‘plans’ are like Twain’s.
When my wife is an hour late, my mind often begins to churn over the worst case scenarios. I daydream about having to heroically break the bad news to our kids. This internal soap opera goes on until the potatoes boil over or she steps through our front door. Mindfulness tends to decrease this kind of catastrophising. Another kind of ‘planning’ that decreases as your meditation practice builds is particularly significant at this time of year. I call it ‘revenge planning’.
Have you ever replayed an argument in your head, adding in what you should have said, or wish you had said?
If any of you are planning to get even with poor old aunt Vivian for something she said at last year’s Christmas dinner, you’ll understand revenge planning.
During mindfulness meditation, one focusses awareness on internal reality in a non-judgemental way.
If you’re harbouring resentments towards a friend or family member (and let’s be honest, who isn’t?) the goal of this kind of meditation is simply to acknowledge your feelings. Don’t chide yourself; just observe what you are experiencing. Treating yourself with this kind of non-judgemental compassion eventually conditions your way of thinking.
You will find yourself forgiving others more readily.
This is not an invitation to be stupid. Accepting yourself as a living being with internal experiences does not suggest complacency towards the outside world. You should still avoid dark alleyways at night.
And if you are cold, turn on the heat. In order to do so, you must plan to get up, walk to the heat switch and turn it on. But at least, you’ll start your planning with an honest assessment of where you are now.