October 3

The Future is Now… Maybe?

Musing of a Lifelong Learner ...

In our last installment about the future, we looked at the notion of the future, specifically the nuances between an “I” future which is personal and the “we” future which is communal. Expanding our thinking to include the “we” in our contemplations about the future can have quite an impact on how we approach the future. Read that article here.

As promised, today we will look at how our imaginings about the future shape our actions today.

I mean, is that really the case? And if so why do I take so many actions that don’t really seem aligned with the future I have created for myself? And I am betting it is the same for you. Are we simply weak or is something missing?

Before we try to answer that, let's look at another common notion … there is only ever NOW. This is the approach that virtually all mindfulness or spiritual paths take. The past is a memory (not necessarily a good one) and the future is a concept constructed in our imaginations. Given the anxiety wiring we mentioned in the previous email, living in the NOW can be pretty daunting for the human brain.

In fact, for some of us, the aim of our ongoing growth and learning is often about getting ourselves to the seemingly promised nirvana of living only in the now. This path is fraught with failure and likely takes a lifetime or a private island or top of a mountain stocked with everything a body needs!

Like so many of these notions that combine spiritual (being) understandings with the human potential lessons of the last 50 years, I think the answer is most often BOTH.

What’s required to live in BOTH, the NOW and in an imagined future?

First, an imagined future starts with doing the imagining. This means slowing down and taking the time to really imagine the life we want 10,20,60 years from now. What is happening, where are we, who is with us, how do we feel? I often imagine myself sitting in a rocker on the deck of my beach house reflecting, with a friend, about all the miracles that life is now.

Next, and this is the super important and almost always overlooked step, that imagined future needs to be put into existence today. This means you create objects, displays, slogans and other “real” things that represent your imagined future. It’s NOT a plan for making it to that future, it is a representation of that future, as you imagine it, as alive and expressed in that future date.

It’s this piece about having the future represented, in your current time and place, that makes it all truly possible.

I can’t resist telling a personal story here…

About 8 years ago I was sitting with my father-in-law in the garage of his and my mother-inlaw’s family home 1 year after “mother” died. 

We had just uncovered a trunk, and at the bottom was a box of saved letters. We pulled them out and started reading. These were letters “Mother” had written to “Daddy” when they were engaged, not yet married. She was living in San Francisco and he was in Juneau, Alaska. She was telling him EXACTLY the life they would live together … the two beautiful blond headed boys they would raise, the house beautiful decor their dream home would have, the long love and life they would have together. As we sat in that home some 60 years in the future, me married to one of those boys, Daddy and I were crying at the beauty and accuracy of the future she imagined.

In those letters Evelyn (aka Mother) had imagined, to the smallest detail, what her life would look like, and be like, 20, 30, 40 years in the future and it ALL happened. So back to the above question, does the future REALLY impact the NOW and how do we explain all those things we do that seem so inconsistent with that future happening … 

Maybe what we have no clue about is HOW that future happens. Maybe the path isn’t a straight road that can be all planned out. What if we just need to relax a bit and keep imagining.

Could it be that simple? Let’s find out. I invite you to go write some letters and then relax!