We live in three different time spaces: the past, the future, and the present. We shuffle back and forth throughout our day, but we mostly live in the past and future. Most of our thoughts are consumed with yesterday or tomorrow. What if he never left me? What if I never took this job? Where am I going to be in five years? Will I still be doing what I do now? If not, how am I going to pay my bills? What if he never calls? What if I never find “the one”? And on it goes. Living in yesterday or tomorrow pulls us out of the present and keeps us is in a subtle fight or flight panic state. Basically, we are in constant worry. It creates a thin, or for some a thick, blanket of anxiety. This anxiety keeps us at a lower frequency and prevents us from truly thriving.
Okay, let’s break it down like this. There are actually two kinds of time: healthy time and unhealthy time. Healthy time is living in the here and now. Unhealthy time is living anywhere else. When you are living in unhealthy time, the past or future, you are not living in your truth. Because your truth only lives in the present. So you are living in what was, which can be distorted, or would will be -unknown, which is not real and hasn’t happened yet. Healthy means to be here, the only honest space.
Most of us spend our days dwelling on the past or obsessing about the future. We get up in the morning thinking about all the things we need to get done in the day. On the drive to work, we analyze our past relationships, our accomplishments, our failures, those expensive shoes we’re waiting to go on sale, the potential raise, our credit card bill, the date last night, the party this weekend. Then at work there are more to-dos, rehearing presentations in our heads, wondering why we’re gaining weight, losing our hair, why he didn’t call, she didn’t text, reminding ourselves to stop being a pushover, debating what we want for lunch, how to change our parents, talk to our boss, address our love - and suddenly the day is over. Now we’re in bed, replaying the day and where we could have done more. We have trouble going to sleep, which means we wake up grouchy as we start our mental machine all over again.
This becomes a pattern that waters us down and turns us into zombies who drag through life clenching lottery tickets and a grudge. If we want to change the future, we must focus on the now. That’s where our power is. Everything else is an illusion.
As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out the present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes inbued with a sense of quality, care, and love-even the most simple action.
– Eckard Tolle
First, let’s talk about the past. This includes everything that has happened up until this very moment: five minutes ago or five years ago, it doesn’t matter. Whatever is stored in your memory, it’s okay to remember. Not living in the past doesn’t’ mean that we forget about the past. A lot has happened that may have left imprints in your heart and brain. No one enters adulthood unscarred or without trauma. Shit has happened that you had no control over; unexpected events transpired that were unfair to you, and these events made you angry, afraid, regretful and wired you a certain way. This wiring created unhealthy thought and behavior patterns that affect you today. They are the foundation on which you built your Pseudo Self-false approval-seeking version of you.
The future - unknown is scary. I’ve struggled with this my entire life. I don’t know about you, but I want an amazing life-one with meaning and purpose and financial security. And not knowing if that’s ever going to happen is terrifying. Or if you have that now if your life, maybe you’re worried it’s going to go away someday. And then what will you do? Yes, I can tell you that I do feel purpose and meaning these days, but I can also tell you I want to live bi coastal, have a Korean barbeque in my backyard, and a collection of motorcycles. If I didn’t, I’d be lying. I could also tell you you have the power to create your own destiny and that you can make anything happen, but that would be just be me being my Pseudo Self, because that’s what I believe a good life coach / therapist is supposed to say and what you want to hear. The truth is tragedies happen: people die of cancer, addiction, get hit by cars, shot at-well you know. You live on earth. There are legitimate things to worry about. We have to learn to stay positive and empowered and at peace with ourselves and that’s not easy.
But we can live a certain way that facilitates good stuff to happen-where we attract good things, healthy people. Yes, there will be the tragic events and shitty days, but we don’t have to be crushed by them. Instead, we can see them differently. They can become opportunities for learning and growth that make us wiser and stronger. So it’s not about making things happen. It’s about being in a state where we get out of our own way and allow our gifts to shine. That’s when we get unstuck. That’s when good things happen and we can start to build happy. The beginning of this process starts with living in healthy time.
The power for creating a better future is contained in the present moment: You create a good future by creating a good present.
– Eckart Tolle
One way to stay in healthy time - and swipe your past-dwelling future-tripping state clean - is to practice gratitude. Before you roll your eyes, let me tell you my story with gratitude. I always thought that gratitude was a wellness buzzword until I started to practice it. That’s what separates the eye rollers (and used to be one of them) from the believers. What does it mean to practice gratitude? Practicing gratitude doesn’t mean that you’re grateful only when good things happen. That’s easy and noneffective. By that definition, most of us practice gratitude at least three times a year: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and our birthdays. But let’s look at that. Really. Take those three days when most of us are honestly grateful: What does that really feel like? How stressed are you on Christmas? And I’m not talking about the stress of the holiday. I’m talking about when things have settled and you’re sipping eggnog and opening presents with the people you love. How angry are you when you’re saying everything you’re truly thankful for during Thanksgiving? How sad are you on your birthday when your friends take you out to dinner, sing to you, and give you presents? What if we can channel those positive feelings daily? You can.
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.
If you truly allow yourself to feel grateful for what you have, how far you’ve come, and what could be possible, you will start to let go of what was and become less afraid of what will be. It instantly snaps you into the present. And as long as you are there, you are not worried or in a state of panic. Instead, you are living. In color.
Staying here is a daily practice. Our default is to jump into our time machines. So we have to make a conscious effort to notice when we are not here and come back. Over and over again, until it becomes less difficult. Until it becomes the norm. Until we only live in one time, healthy time.