Anticipation

Photo courtesy of Pamela Logan

Photo courtesy of Pamela Logan

Today I sat down to lunch, ate my food, and then I realized it was over.  I blew through lunch so fast I didn’t even realize it!  While I was eating my very nutritious salad, my thoughts were centered on the things I had to accomplish next.

I was looking forward, which isn’t a bad thing of itself; but it kept me from fully enjoying the present – my lunch experience.  The taste of fresh spring greens, the austere square-ness of our lunchroom, the refreshing coolness of a glass of water (a real glass, not a plastic bottle), the sweetness of fresh pineapple chunks.

Enjoying these common things was precluded because my mind was elsewhere and not in the present; the eating of a mid-day meal.

I missed an opportunity to savor. 

How often do we do this in our normal, busy lives?  We let our thoughts skip over the present, in order to mull over the future – a future we can not control.

The present is the only space we actually live in.  The present is our only sphere of influence.

My innate tendency to “anticipate” is a trait that was nurtured during my years in the Navy as a submarine officer.  A modern, nuclear powered submarine is an environment fraught with peril at every turn: high pressure steam that could melt your skin, compressed air that will implode your eardrums, moving equipment that will snatch and crush any loose appendages, not to mention the hundreds of feet of seawater separating you and your lungs from the atmosphere’s abundant supply of fresh air.

As Navy officers, we were trained to anticipate the next step – to always rehearse in the possible outcomes of each and every activity.

We always looked ahead.  What could go wrong with this situation?  If we pulled that lever, how would the system respond?  If we venture over this body of water, what are the risks?

We were always in a heightened sense of readiness, ready to respond if something went “pop” in the night.  Could we respond quickly if an adversary suddenly careened past at 1000 yards distance?  (1000 yards is way too close in submarine geometry!)

This level of awareness and attitude of anticipation was necessary for those entrusted to protect the citizens of our great nation.  But is such a constant level of anticipation always needed for our everyday lives?  I say NO.

We only have the current moment.  Life is short and it can be taken away in the blink of an eye.  When we focus on the present, we give that over which we have the highest degree of control our greatest attention – the here and now.  Living in the moment encourages mindfulness.  Taking time to see, hear, and feel that which surrounds us – whether good or bad.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—  yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  James 4:13-14 (ESV)

Living in a constant state of anticipation and wondering happens next may cause us to miss the important aspects of the present.  It also contributes to anxiety and stress – two things that are not healthy if out of balance.  If we focus our attenton on the present, we make no room nor space for anxiety to grow.

Here are some tips to help you focus on the present and links to great articles on each:

Meditation

Gratitude 

Journaling 

Eliminate excess baggage from your life

Make space

Slow down

 What do you think?  How can you slow down and savor the moment?

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About John Forrest

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