I’ve visited both the past and the future. Like Dr. Who.
You’re a time traveller, too.
In fact, I’m willing to bet you spend less time in the present moment than you think you do.
Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert of Harvard University are quoted as saying,”humans spend a lot of time thinking about what isn’t going on around them: contemplating events that happened in the past, might happen in the future, or may never happen at all.” They conducted a rigorous study which revealed that “people spend 46.9 percent of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing.” Being somewhere else. In a different moment than the present one. “Our lives,” they say, “are pervaded, to a remarkable degree, by the non-present,” and this channel surfing comes at an emotional cost: “A wandering mind is an unhappy mind.”
There is a difference, though, between a wandering mind and a reflective one. Reflection is a choice to forgo being in the present moment to think about either the past, present, or future.
And we have our biases. You can probably think of someone who seems to be stuck in the past (maybe their traditions, the good old days, eighties hair, or an painful wound they can’t let go of). Or what about the person who’s so future focused (maybe on retirement, or getting into the bigger house) that they rob themselves of joy and community in the present. Or maybe someone who lives in the moment to such an unhealthy degree that they don’t consider where their actions may lead.
A balanced person, it would seem, can travel through time without getting stuck anywhere (Getting stuck in a different time may make for a great Dr. Who episode, but not such a great life). They also know when to focus on the past, when to focus on the future, and when to be fully present in the now.
This morning I was stressed so much I could feel a weight hanging on my chest. Anxiety gripped me like an evil monkey hanging onto it’s mother for dear life. Halfway through my day, I realized my problem: I’d wasted the morning ruminating on the future—in particular, on a negative anticipation of something going on in my life. The feeling lifted as soon as I decided to live in the moment, which had nothing to do with the future I was anxious about.
And God was waiting for me here, in the present.