I am grateful that my weekend was full of family and friends, including two beautiful nieces—one who is one and can crawl like a champion and almost walk (!) and one who is nearly three and likes to do the “Freeze Dance” endlessly (it’s basically the Cha Cha Slide for toddlers) and melts my heart every time she calls me, “Aunt Joyce.”
One night, after I gave my almost three-year old niece a bath and got her into her pink dinosaur pajamas, I got to brush her wet hair and braid it down her back and—I can’t quite explain it—but, looking at that perfect little braid, I felt like I had made it. Like, maybe, my whole life had been leading to the creation of that tiny braid. Maybe: this was it. And, for a moment, it was enough.
Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh says that a beautiful mantra to repeat over and over to yourself is, “I have arrived.”
I wrote on arrival months ago—and the danger of constantly living for the next thing.
I’ll be happy when X...
I’ll be satisfied when Y...
When Z happens, I’ll have made it...
All of these thought patterns are dangerous traps to fall into, because you’re deferring your joy to a (usually unreachable) future. People do this their whole lives. People spend their whole lives living for a time that isn’t now and a place that isn’t here.
And yet, even when you can train your mind to stop constantly projecting into the future, it can still be tough to then actually believe, well, that this is it. To actually BE in the present. To say: I am here. I have arrived.
Because it’s so easy to mentally understand future projections can be damaging yet still think, “Yeah, but...”
[Aside: One thing I've found with spiritual growth in general: Most people agree with spirituality principles, but many think they'rethe exception. (Another pattern: people often tell me how their partner really needs to start meditating, rather than themselves.) I was reading the awesome book How Yoga Works on the train the other day and the guy beside me started telling me he's been interested in yoga and meditation for years. But his mind? He's can't meditate. He has too much of a "monkey mind." He, simply, thinks too much. (Of course, this is the same problem nearly all of us have and one of the core reasons for meditating.)]
But back to the dangers of the "Yeah, but..." tendency with future projections. For example, you might be tempted to say: “Yeah, I conceptually get it’s best to live in the present and that living only for the future is a trap, and I can see how the world would be better with more present moment awareness, but I, personally, just need these two things to happen first, and then, I’ll totally be able to start fully living in the present.”
Which is, of course, the exact same mind game as before, just intellectually dressed up a bit. (My high school history teacher used to say: “You can put lipstick on a pig, that doesn't make it pretty.”)
Because what if you’ve already arrived?
They say in sports: When you get to the End Zone, act like you’ve been there before. So why spend your whole life acting like the End Zone is completely elusive? Why not be professional at this thing called living?
What if you’re in the End Zone right now?
What if the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t an illusion—what if the tunnel is the illusion?
And (perhaps a bit counterintuitively) what if tapping into the feeling state of having arrived in the present is exactly what will open up new, surprising, delightful opportunities for you in the future?
Here are three little mantras I’ve been using a lot lately (first two from Thich Nhat Hanh), which have allowed me to tap into more moments of presence, with my sweet nieces and otherwise:
I have arrived.
I am home.
I am here now.
They all aim to get me more entrenched in the present, because that’s where the real magic happens. You don’t need to go anywhere else—in time or space—to find joy except for right here.
As Rumi says:
“This is enough was always true, we just haven’t seen it.”
What if you have arrived? Right here. Right now.
with Love and with Light,