One of the greatest obstacles to being present in the moment is our fear or anxiety about the future. Why do we have that fear? The future obviously cannot be known with certainty, and that is a source of anxiety.
Because our ego-mind cannot accept that. It wants control; it wants certainty. And so it bombards us with an endless series of “what if’s,” trying to imagine the future. For many of us, the ego-mind always seems to imagine the answer to these questions negatively. It has no faith because something or many things in our life experience has robbed us of faith in ourselves and certainly of others.
And so when the ego-mind starts this process, one must stop. Take a few moments and take some deep breaths. Center yourself. Bring yourself back to the present.
Be aware that all of this ego-mind chatter is just thought, not reality. The only thing one can have regarding the future is thought, conjecture. The fact that such thought is based on past life experience does not make it reality-based. How often have you thought negatively about the future, only to find out that something positive occurred? The past is not a guide to the future. Because the future is unknowable, such thought is classic mental masturbation.
So don’t let yourself go there. Say “no” to the ego-mind’s never ending questions.
But as always, when you stop something, when you free yourself from some negative action of your ego-mind, your most replace it with something positive. That means connecting with your heart and offering yourself joy in the moment. By taking pleasure in the moment regardless of what is going on. By being in touch with the positive energy in your heart. By releasing all desire that your life be different in any way from the way it is right now at this moment. By being aware of all you are grateful for. By loving yourself unconditionally and having compassion for yourself.
This is not easy. The ego-mind is very powerful and persistent. One must remember that you have identified with your ego-mind your whole life. Only recently have you begun knowing that your heart is your true self, not your ego-mind. So it will take a great deal of discipline and strength to say “no” to the ego-mind. But ultimately, if you want to be at peace and happy, if you want to free yourself of the anguish that you have experienced throughout your life, you just have to do it … say “no” to your ego-mind.
As the Zen monk who trained me always said, “The choice is yours.” Whether you suffer or not does not depend on what is going on around you or what situation you find yourself in, it depends on your attitude, on your state of mind.
But beware! Don’t blame yourself for suffering. Buddhists do not participate in the blame game. You do not blame the world for your suffering and anxiety. Neither should you blame yourself. As I have often written, blame or guilt requires that you do something of your own free will. Because our ego-mind is programmed by our life experiences to be the way it is, we have only a small area of true free will. As Ernestine, the Flip Wilson drag persona used to say, “The devil made me do it!”
We only expand that free will when we disassociate ourselves from our ego-mind and connect with our heart, our true self. Then we have the choice the monk spoke of. But again, we should not blame ourselves for not taking such action, for not disassociating ourselves, because the ego-mind is so powerful and deeply rooted. All we can ask of ourselves is that we do the best we can.