"It is our very fear of the future that distorts the now that could lead to a different future if we dared to be whole in the present.” Marion Woodman
As a coach, I hear the pain in a client's voice as they tell me they don't know why they can't get this job, get this promotion, hit a certain tier of success, stop negative behavior, make the relationships in their life work, etc. They tell me they try to project what they want in the future, but their past keeps them stuck. I understand the trap of the past, and how it can keep us just far enough out of reach from our goals to cause frustration. When my 19 year old marriage ended, I interpreted that loss as a personal failure. I told myself, If I had been better, I would have had a fuller, more honest marriage. I defined myself as less than because my ideal marriage had not been achieved. We all have ideals, which either keep us tethered to the past, constantly going over and over why we are not achieving the results we want, or focused on the future. This cycle can feel impenetrable, but it absolutely can be resolved.
The first step is to surrender to the moment. When we shift our gaze from our past and future and accept the present, our perceptions are allowed the freedom to become fluid. We can consider the possibility that our current circumstances may hold lessons that will instruct us. We may miss these important clues without this important shift in perspective. Asking, "What is the lesson that I need to learn," can yield the promise of our dreams if we keep our attention on the present. I began to understand the lessons of my past, and I began to let go of my ideal future when I let the gifts of the present unfold. For the first time in my life, I knew from somewhere deep inside of me that I was perfect just as I was because the circumstances that I had once deemed a hardship were really a loving, instructive gift. Every piece of my life's path was exactly as intended. My inner compass, that soft, gentle voice, was enough.
The second step is to go inward. When we go inward, we begin to see the beauty in each step in life's dance. We understand why we didn't get that promotion because something else was forming that was better. Meditation gave me the space to go inward. It also gave me the eyes to see the dew on the petals of a flower, the myriad colors of a setting sun, and the beauty in each human being that has come into my life. When I adjusted my gaze from what went wrong (the past) and how I am going to fix it (the future), I could see the beauty in my ex-husband, my children, and even in the death of a loved one.
I helped to care for my mother-in-law in the last years of her life. I took her swimming twice a week, and when she could no longer swim, I took her to some of her favorite places−the library, the bookstore, and The Dollar Store. When I first began this journey with her, I was not present as a thousand things I could be doing instead flooded my mind. My ideal of relationship looked differently, and I almost missed the gift in front of me. It didn't take long, however, to see that gift. My mother-in-law shared her dreams, her hurts, her regrets, her secrets, her wisdom, and gratitude. I was connected to this beautiful soul, and she was connected to me. Connecting is the beauty of life and what really makes us whole. While we want the job, the promotion, the right dollar amount in our retirement fund, being loving and being loved is the ultimate gift.
I have come to know that the only way to truly confront the world is with open eyes and an open heart. When we give up expectations, we can see the gifts and lessons that in the present moment, demonstrates that we are whole and on the right path. Thich Nhat Hanh's book The Miracle of Mindfulness states, “Many people are alive but don't touch the miracle of being alive.” When I surrender to what is happening in any given moment without a preconceived notion, I am present for the gifts of life even in the face of tragedy or death. When I give up what I think my life should look like, then the dreams can be unveiled, and the money, jobs, and relationships can come into view. When we are whole, we are connected. When we are whole, we achieve. When we are whole and we experience the miracle of of being alive.