Most of the times, if our heads aren’t full of past regrets and embarrassment then it’s filled with anxiety for the future.
What if it rains when I’m out (even if it’s summer and there’s not a lick of cloud visible for miles in the sky)?
What if I can’t find a job upon graduation and will have to resort to be a solo goat farmer in the rural southeastern part of the country?
What if my significant other cheats and breaks my heart in two months?
What if I fail this semester? (legit fear though)
What if, what if, what if?
We like to think that we’re being rational and preparing the best for the future, but think about it. Have you ever been able to be a hundred percent prepared for the future?
I thought so.
It’s very unlikely you are going to be able to foresee the future and its surrounding situation and make plans to perfectly resolve those issues successfully.
Apart from these general life anxieties, we are also anxious about our death and ill-health from time to time. While of course, thinking and planning for the future is obviously a good thing, if you just spend your time unproductively wallowing in the negative emotions such as fear and anxiety that your predictions generate, then you might need to change because those doomsdays? They are not happening right at this moment.
Since right here right now is the only reality, your fear and anxiety in the projected future are just that, a projection. Why waste perfectly good minutes of a real life over some fantasy apocalypse in the future that might not even happen? What will your life be if you spend every single minute of it worrying about the next minute? Probably not a lot, I dare say.
While the silliness of being anxious of the future is easily grasped by the head, it’s harder for us to feel and realize it in our hearts of hearts. It took me years to finally curb my worries a little and I’m pretty sure this is far from the last level of not-giving-a-shit, but I hope these methods of mindfulness will help you lessen your fear for the future, too:
- Think of yourself as a team, made up of millions of selves, each one designed to deal with just one second of your life as a whole. If the issue is not happening right in this second, then it’s not your present-self’s business to fret over it. Just take care of the moment handed to you. If and when the issue is going to happen, your future selves will deal with it. Have faith in your future self. I mean, your past selves have survived 100% of their conquest; you are surviving right now; and you will survive in the future.
- As always, when anxiety comes up, please do not judge yourself. Just acknowledge to yourself, “I am feeling anxious right now.” Remember that you are not your feelings. You are your actions. When you are aware of your feelings as they bubble up, you have a greater power in choosing to act on them or not.
When negative feelings come up, just acknowledge them and let them pass. You’re a sky and negative emotions are just clouds passing by. Some days, the clouds are so thick and numerous that you think you might never see the blue sky again, but it’s still there, underneath all the clouds, you’re still there.
- When dealing with the fear of ill-health or death, it’s best to just accept the reality. No matter how scared you are of them, they will come; oh, they will come. Spend some time just breathing in and out and imagine your body slowly becoming weaker. Your knees can no longer support your fragile frame and they buckle under the weight of your own waste. One day, your arms will not be strong as they are now, and you will also have difficulty recalling your pet’s names. And then, all the lights will go out and you will cease to exist in this world, at least not as the you right now. It’s best to just get comfortable with the image of your body, dead cold, laying beneath the earth, rotting for eternity because that’s definitely going to happen (unless you, like me, have plans to get your cremated ash launched into space. No? Just me?). Running away from it will only generate more fear. You have to accept it’s a given reality and instead of fretting that it will come (which it will), focus on making everyday of your life counts because it’s counting, oh, it’s counting. After you die, only the effects you have on the world remains: how soft you loved the people and things around you, and how gently you treaded the earth. Your physical body will be gone, but you can make sure you have a positive impact on the world long after you’re dead by being kind, and doing stuff that matters. It’s comforting (to me, at least), to realize that in the long run, nothing that I’m doing will matter except for how much I’ve loved. It helps to practice saying Thich Nhat Hanh’s mantras about death while breathing in and out to accept the reality of death:
- Breathing in, say “I am of the nature to grow old.” Breathing out, repeat, “I cannot escape growing old.”
- Breathing in, say, “I am of the nature to have ill health.” Breathing out, “I cannot escape ill health.”
- Breathing in, say, “I am of the nature of die.” Breathing out, “I cannot escape death.”
- Breathing in, repeat, “All that is dear to me, and everyone I love, are of the nature to change.” Breathing out, “There is no way to escape being separated from them.”
- Breathing in, say, “I inherit the results of my acts of body, speech and mind.” Breathing out, say, “My actions are my continuation.”
These mantras sound extremely simple, I know, but once you let it sip into your subconscious and really know them, you can let go of pretty much any fear that you can think of.