“If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” – Lao Tzu
I find that I constantly bounce between depressed and anxious; one emotion seems to feed the other until they create a monster, a vicious cycle that leads nowhere except down.
Sam Darnold, Quarterback for the New York Jets (NFL) was recently heard on the touchline during a game saying “I’m seeing ghosts!” He was not literally seeing ghosts, what he seemed to be referring to was his state of mind during the game. There was so much going on in front of him that everything was a blur, he thought he saw someone to pass to but he ended up throwing the ball into empty space, to nobody. You don’t really have to be a sports fan to understand that this is not good.
My life feels a bit like that at the moment; there is so much going on, bouncing from anxiety to depression; the past to the future that none of it seems clear. I’m throwing balls but they ain’t going where I want them too. I thought I had sound ideas and some sort of structure to follow, but all of that seems to have unravelled and vanished.
I’ve read a lot about living in the present from the Dalai Lama to Eckhart Tolle, and while it makes complete sense, for me, it is one of the hardest things to do. The key to living in the present seems to be ‘Mindfulness’ or the ability to focus your attention on the present moment.
“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the Now the primary focus of your life.” – Eckhart Tolle
You can be mindful about anything, from washing the dishes to walking around. I find the best time for me to practice being mindful is when I take Leo for a walk across the fields. Nature is never the same, it changes every day, so although I walk in the same locations, there is always something new to see.
The sights, sounds and smells are always varied, from day to day and season to season. There is always something to notice from the big and obvious to the small and delicate. One minute you can see formidable cloud patterns in the sky and in the next a butterfly on a flower.
I always have my iphone with me so I can take photographs; I find taking a picture really focuses my mind on what I am seeing. I also notice that the colours are never the same in a picture. I’m a complete amateur photographer, so I have no idea about exposure, filters or other technical stuff, and this is great because it makes me appreciate what I am seeing with my own eyes even more.
Sometimes I catch fleeting glances of something, it could be a flash of blue that is a kingfisher, and in those moments I feel really blessed to have been paying attention. Again, you can’t photograph that, that’s one for the mind, for the heart.
Watching the farmers go about their business is also fascinating, seeing their array of machinery and watching their crops grow over time. My overriding memory this year was the smell off a field of onions; it was so intense my eyes started to water.
Most of the time my mind will still be working away, so don’t start imagining me peacefully gliding around in a state of calm serenity. A lot of the time I am walking and seeing nothing because my mind is raging.
The odd thing is that during these times Leo seems to pick up on my emotions; he will stop right in front of me, wag his tail and jump up; I have to stop and pay him attention because otherwise I would trip over him. He brings me back to the present, it’s as if he knows that my mind needs rescuing and refocusing.
“There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow, so today is the right day to love, believe, do and mostly live.” – The Dalai Lama
I feel like giving up on the future, but I know deep down that this is not the answer. A lot of my past follows me around like a black cloud, casting a shadow over the good things in my life. I want to find the peace that Lao Tzu talked about, it’s just so damned elusive. I don’t really know what it looks or feels like, so how will I know if or when it does arrive?
Guess this is my Grail quest…..
Thank you, thank you, thank you.