I’m pretty future-oriented. Said not so kindly, I waste loads of time and energy thinking about that which is to come, or could come, or what I want to have happen. I’ll think about what I’m going to do or what I plan to write about, or I’ll build out whole scenes in my head of the cabin I want to decorate or conversations I need to have. Sometimes I’ll even hang in my imagination and plan the wedding to the dude I’ve not even met yet. (Yes, I did just admit that. You’re welcome.)
Call it fantasy or reverie or future-tripping, this mental habit can sometimes feel totally useful, like the inspiration before the execution, or like visioning and calling in what’s wanted. Often it feels really good, because what you’re thinking about is awesome. Or would be awesome if it was actually happening. Which it’s not. Enter suffering, folks!!!
When we future-trip we can create suffering for ourselves because we create feelings of craving and longing and we dissociate from what’s happening now. The distraction feels good, the content feels good but at some point we have to come back and even if right now isn’t so bad, it’s usually not better than what the mind can paint as a possible future.
This practice here came out of a recent session with a client where we busted a gut laughing about the ways in which we’ll bargain with ourselves to stay in the reverie, like a child begging to stay up a little later. Not only does this practice call us to be present to what’s actually happening in the moment, it investigates what the mind is doing, what it’s trying to get out of doing it and explores more fulfilling ways to get these needs met.
Practice: Throughout the day, pay attention to moments when you take off into your imagination, thinking about the future (or hey, if you’re a ‘past-lingerer’ this’ll work for you too!)
If simply catching yourself isn’t so easy, try setting an alarm on your phone to go off a few times per day. When it does, pay attention to where your thoughts are.
When you catch yourself future-tripping, or in reverie, notice the content of your imagination. Notice what feelings it conjures in you or what experience you’re trying to get to by hanging out here. Next, pay attention to what’s happening how, bringing yourself back and see what that does to your energetic and emotional state.
These reflection questions will help you to track what’s happening, bringing greater awareness to this practice:
- Where did I go in my imagination? What was the content?
- What emotions did this evoke?
- What, if anything, was I trying to get away from in the moment?
- How did my experience shift as I brought myself back?
After a week of this, you can read back through the above answers, like you’re investigating the themes of your experience, then reflect on these:
- What are the most alluring future trips or fantasies for me and what do they seem to provide?
- What suffering or pain or anxiety do these moments of ‘going away’ create for me?
- What may be some deeper and more fulfilling ways to create the experience that I seem to be looking for when escaping to my imagination?
May this practice be useful for you. I know as I’ve been playing with it the last few days the quality of my presence has totally kicked up and my time with my kid has been exceptional, my mind not taking me away as much and the pleasure of just being together has been super nourishing.