Free Beer Tomorrow!
One of my my favorite causal places to eat in my neighborhood of midtown Memphis is a burger joint named Huey's. It always tickles me when we walk out and I see the mural art outside that proclaims "Free beer tomorrow" in great big letters.
If you think about it, when you come back tomorrow to claim your free beer, you won't get it. In fact, you can come back every subsequent day, and you won't get that free beer..... EVER.
The reason that you won't get that free beer is because there is no tomorrow. The concept of "tomorrow" is nothing more than a mental construct. Stated quite simply, where ever you are is the present moment. That is the beauty of mindfulness. It reminds us that the present moment is where life happens. In other words, the present moment is our reality.
Despite knowing that life only happens in the present moment, our minds tend to occupy an over-abundance of time in the past and in the future. This makes no sense because the past is dead, and the future is just fantasy. While we may realize this on an intellectual level, on a deep subconscious level, we replay past events over and over in our minds, and we obsess about the future and what we think is always just "right around the corner."
Our minds spin these stories and try to draw quick solutions and try to tie up loose ends because they don't like uncertainties. As a result, much of our suffering is self-induced by clinging to the past or craving towards the future. This type of compulsive over-thinking makes us miserable, even when we are fantasizing about something lovely in the future. The problem with being stuck in a fanciful mental image in the future is that when we eventually come out of it, we are in the present moment. We then become miserable that we are not in the made-up future locale or situation that our mind
I am not suggesting that we should totally avoid the past or the future. That is ridiculous. We grow from learning from the past, and we often prosper by planning for the future. What we need to realize is that there is no benefit from constantly ruminating in the past or obsessing non-stop about the future. Learn what you need to from the past and move on. Plan what you need to for the future, and then make it happen by taking care of each and every present moment.
A mindfulness practice can help us learn to be more centered in the present. When I am working with an athlete and he seems to be distracted, I will often ask, "Where are your feet"? Typically he will say, "Right here on the court." I'll remind him, "That is where your mind needs to be, too. Make sure they are aligned and in the same place." We can all use this little technique. When we find ourselves mentally spending too much time in the past or the future, we can do a quick "realignment" and make sure our minds and our feet are in the same place. Get into the habit of doing this. It will help. Not only will it make you more productive in the present moment, but it will will increase your happiness as well.
Meditation helps. Years ago when I started meditating, I thought it was all about clearing my mind. Now I know that this is wrong. It is impossible to clear our minds. Meditation is self-observation. When we meditate we learn to become the observer of our thoughts. Over time, meditation will put some space between our impulses and actions. In addition, when we sit in silence and observe our thoughts through meditation, we begin to see just how crazy our minds are, as they are always trying to keep us back in the past or forward in the future. The more we realize this, the more we can stop some of the mind's clinging and craving. This enables us to consciously return to the present moment. No matter how much we meditate, we can never perfect this. That is why it is called a meditation "practice." It always takes some redirection, but the more you practice, the more time your mind will spend in the present moment.
So next time that you are offered a free beer or burger "tomorrow," let that person know that you have plans tomorrow, but you will be more than happy to take it right now in the present moment.