I am on a retreat. I am in-flight actually, but my retreat has already begun. I awoke to the new week yesterday morning, and my first thought was literally, “God, give me something to do this week.” I don’t usually have such lofty thoughts first thing in the morning, or really any thoughts at all…. it was certain to be an unusual day. Truthfully, it has already been an unusual year for me. In terms of my work and my time, I am closer to my goals than ever before. It’s a destination I’ve been running towards for about 3 years, with this particular point in focus, but overall, I’ve been running the race for much longer. High school – 4.0 and no less because I was planning ahead to get into any college I wanted. College math and science major (with no time for anything else) because I was planning to get a job in engineering. Master of Science and thesis in hydrogeology because I was planning to get a job in the Hydro Group at GeoEngineers. Eleven years of working as a consulting geologist because I was planning to start my own business later on. Selling everything, leaving my friends and bands, moving to Nashville, working 3 jobs at once, and risking the previous 16 years of effort to build this new life. A “simpler” life where my passion is my work, and I am my boss, and I have more time for hobbies and friends and me. Always planning ahead and looking forward to the future. We all do it. The next weekend, the next vacation, the next season, the next life event…. We are always looking forward and planning ahead. It’s natural. We have goals and they help us grow up and achieve things that we want and are proud of. But it can be hard to live mindfully in the present moment when we are so focused on the destination, which is always out in front of us, just out of reach.
After years of these habits, apparently, one day Future Life walks through your door unannounced, sits down on your couch and waits for you to look up from your very busy, important life. “Oh hello, I was just sitting here waiting for you to notice that I got here.” Of course, life is always there for the experiencing, but there are finite points in time when goals are achieved – some are momentous like receiving a degree, while others are gradual and take years to accomplish such that you may not realize when you are finally there. I am trying to figure out why Future Life doesn’t feel like I thought it would and how I can fully embrace Future Life without looking more. “Oh hey Future Life. Yeah, you’re alright but now I’m going to need to also remodel the house, fit into my skinny jeans the way I did after that one breakup, get a new tattoo, . . . Oh, and find my soul mate to hang with now that Future Life is here. It’s not really perfect until. . . “ It seems like we can say that forever.
It’s weird when you imagine the future – where you’ll live, what you’ll be eating for breakfast (including the table you’ll be sitting at with sun always beaming through the windows and the white cotton pajamas you’ll be wearing as you look and feel as fresh as a daisy), how you’ll arrive at your job ready to change the world each day, the friends you’ll share meals and laughs and walks with. And somehow, even if your reality comes close to achieving that scenario, it never quite feels the same as when you dreamed it playing out in your mind. It doesn’t feel as serene as we imagined. It feels normal. Average. It’s just me, I guess. It’s not that girl in the white pajamas. Maybe the answer to removing the mundane and revealing the beauty is as simple as Mindfulness. Being present to notice and enjoy what you choose to eat and are blessed to eat for breakfast – whether the sun is shining on you through the window or you are watching the rain watering the ground outside. Even noticing if you are focusing on the rain itself and the fact that it might make you cold when you go outside or focusing on what the rain brings – hydration and life to the earth and the promise of spring and summer. Being self-aware enough to know that you have never owned white cotton pajamas and you prefer your old sweats, thank you very much. Mindfully extending grace to yourself when you wake up looking less than daisy-fresh. Giving your all to your job – at every task, big or small – so that you can make a difference in other people and the world. If Future Life is here, or rather just, Life is here, it is time to practice Mindfulness. Not a moment to loose, not an experience to pass us by unnoticed or regarded as mundane.
So back to my question yesterday morning. I had 4 days ahead of me that were almost commitment-free. Since that never happens, I wanted to make sure I didn’t waste an opportunity. I wanted to do just the right thing with the gift of time and savor every bit of it. I had actually been thinking over this the previous night, and had only come to a point of frustration at the options to do nothing or to do everything and to do it in what order. I even started fantasizing about 60-hour work weeks, waking up at 6 am, speeding down highways and road raging to get to the next place, stressing out over what yoga class I could fit into my schedule that day… “wasn’t that exhilarating?” I thought . . . . Oh the irrational places the mind can go at night. . . . Mindfulness – sometimes the mindful thing to do is to remember that you cannot always make rational, mindful decisions late at night after a glass or two of wine. It can be very mindful to just leave the thing alone and pick it up again in the morning. I woke up picturing my ideal day – spending time at a coffee house reading and writing, doing yoga, eating amazing food, walking around a city, visiting friends – and then it hit me. Seattle. The place I can do all of these things, and now, without working the other 8 to 10 hours of the day. I always wanted to take a Stay-cation in Seattle but in 11 years, I never did. Now I can, which was indeed one of my defined and ultimate goals of the simpler, Future Life. And so, I will. Embracing Future Life without hesitation and without second-guessing. I will return to my homeland to rest and rejuvenate, to practice being present and mindful in Future Life here and now. A savasana.