“The present moment, if you really think about it, is the only time there is. No matter what time it is, it is always, now.”
I Don’t Know…
How often do we hear ourselves saying, “…and I don’t know what’s going to happen,” whenever a negative event or life-changing experience comes our way? It usually is spoken with a fretful and worrisome tone in our voice. When applied to significant life changes, work problems or relationship issues, we often attach a series of negative outcomes that are surely just around the corner. We tell ourselves this is the way we prepare ourselves for the “worst.” In truth, what we prepare for and produce instead are internal movies of fear and distress. We quickly move from observing the facts of a life-changing event to instead speeding headlong into negative prediction land. It is difficult, probably impossible, for us not to begin to tell ourselves negative stories around our new circumstances. Yet, the price of sustaining this activity can be a heavy one, paid in added stress, obsessive thinking, worry, impaired sleep, diminished hope and increased overwhelm. The ability to achieve Flow is greatly impeded by each of these negative responses.
It is a fact that we don’t know what’s going to happen, not in the next minute, let alone the next day, week or year. So if we begin to hold ourselves, not to the terrible stories of what might occur, but simply sit with this phrase of not knowing, our brains and bodies begin to slow down.
Separating Facts From Fears: Flow Tool 1
#1: Think of something in your life that you are currently struggling with, something that you believe has a variety of possible negative outcomes. Take out a piece of paper and write down a list of all the fearful options rolling around in your head. Now fold the page so you can no longer see that list. Next, write all the facts (NOT fears) you know about this challenge. Always include the universal fact: I don’t know what’s going to happen. Stay with this list until you have generated at least 10 facts.
Now, it’s time to listen to your body’s wisdom. Go back to your fears list and slowly read through it. With each negative prediction, notice how your body responds. Go slow and don’t deprive yourself from this deep, internal information. At the bottom of this list, make a few notes concerning what you physically felt and learned.
Then, do the same with your facts list. Slowly read through it, one fact at a time, noting what messages you are receiving from your body. When you finish, again write down your experience and observations.
Which list felt like a safer place to hang out? Yep, it was the facts list. Why? Even if we don’t like all the facts they bring us back to the present moment. And, the present moment is the ONLY place where we can act and effect change! The facts allow us to think more clearly and begin to wonder what else might be possible. Facts promote curiosity and creativity. Fears do not.
Our minds are quick and slippery things. Faster than an eye blink, we can fall back into our negative predictions. Isn’t it nice to know we can’t avoid this counter-productive place. The real trick is to realize when we are there and then come back to the present moment, again and again. Often when we think we’re problem solving, in actuality, we’re really catastrophe-generating. However, with practice, we can retrain our brains to spend less time in negative predictions, plus catch ourselves earlier when we do land there. Here’s a great way to strengthen your neural pathways towards greater flexibility and flow.
Cultivating the Present Moment: Flow Tool 2
#2: Select a particularly troublesome challenge. Sitting quietly with your eyes closed, bring up your concerns and continue to breathe normally. Then, on your in-breath say to yourself, “…and I don’t know what’s going to happen’” and on your out-breath say, “…and I still don’t know what’s going to happen.” Repeat these phrases as you inhale and exhale 10 times. Enjoy the shift to the present moment, experiencing this throughout your body. Repeat at least 2 more times.
Not knowing is a fact of life. We all want to know how the story turns out and not knowing can feel scary. However, it’s not nearly as scary as all those negative thoughts we spin around in our heads. The issue is not so much the fact that we are making up the negative stories. It is about learning what to do with them when they overwhelm us.
Why This Works ~
The simple statement, “…and I don’t know what’s going to happen,” brings us back to the present moment: the only place where we can effect change. It’s not about the past or the future. We’re just right here, in the now. We can always handle the present moment. Perhaps not always as elegantly or competently as we’d like, but we do handle what is right in front of us. Not knowing what’s going to happen and remaining open to the present moment is the birthplace of both curiosity and hope. When we choose these options over negative predictions, we create a greater space for both to grow. FLOW flourishes in the present moment of NOW.