As humans we are so often concerned with outcomes that we become frantic for a specific future. While we may achieve our desired outcome another desired outcome looms just over the hill and a precious state of consciousness is lost. Frantic actions seem more prevalent and perhaps even programmed consciously or unconsciously. Distractions and the illusions of multitasking abound amid the frantic drive for an increasingly allusive future.
ASIDE: Multitasking has been scientifically debunked. We as humans cannot focus on multiple tasks simultaneously because our brains are not hardwired for it. We focus one one task at a time and when confronted with a variety of tasks we stop one task and begin another decreasing our effectiveness https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/creativity-without-borders/201405/the-myth-multitasking
Perhaps our frantic actions focused on a elusive future is an inevitable result of acceleration of science and technology. Are we trying to catch up?
Perhaps the emotional compunction to feel frantic has a cloying, obsessive, out-of-breath neediness that originates from an unconscious compulsion to feel in-control. This can readily be seen in driving habits. I have fallen prey to this frantic need to pursue timeliness under impossible conditions as I think we all have from time to time.
When I first arrive in California in the early 1980s driving was more pleasurable, relaxed and civilized. It was laid-back. Driving in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York had a murderous cut-throat aspect where many were threatening to use their cars as weapons. California driving was easier due to less cars on the road and the “laid-back” philosophy of drivers. Now with a greater number of drivers and cars on the roads and increasing distractions – cell phone and texting, the neediness of “being first” and other stresses we as drivers are less present and/or increasingly prey to issues of entitlement and fears converted into anger and rage.
A practice to bring mindfulness to driving could follow this prescription:
1. No cell phone use while moving (calls and text made when the car is pulled over and is completely stopped.)
2. Giving oneself 15 minutes extra in arriving at your destination and when you do arrive don’t begin work immediately. Take a few moments to ground and center yourself so that you can continue to work on being present).
3. Drive the speed limit.
4. Slow down for lights that have already turned red (or yellow at a distance) so that by the time you come to cars stopped at the light they are moving with a turned-green light – eliminating the need for stopping or at the very least remaining idling for a longer period of time at a red light and inching forward. (There is a tendency to speed up to wait in line for a red light as well as a tendency to fill in the gap between your car and the next).
5. If someone fails to use their signal or cuts you off drive defensively- be aware that if you’re feeling angry and wish to act-out your anger it is coming from fear.
6. Acknowledge the anger and the fear use your breath to calm your being and return to your driving practice.
A frantic focus on gaining instantaneous security in the future is an illusion based on a cultivation of a belief that “society” can resolve our problems instantaneously. These beliefs fueled by frantic emotions are cultivated by many in-power seeking to manipulate people for profit. Profit without social and environmental responsibility are cut from the same cloth of feeling frantic about the future. The people who are hurtling down the path of profit could be frantic about their goals and could be seen as perpetrators of manipulating others for future gain. They often cannot see beyond the benefits of their immediate product or service and are locked into the next quarter’s profits without acknowledging a larger more responsible future in the context of community.
A good example of a frantic focus on a future that can solve our problems are people suffering from illnesses. Most anyone with the flu would like the perfect mom to care for them and tell them: “you’ll be okay”. There may be a tendency for an individual to go to their primary care physician- and they will have immediate answers or may invent an answer if they don’t have one and/or run some tests. Part of recovery from a flu is dealing with symptoms and waiting while knowing that the process is healing.
The journey is more important than the destination especially when our focus is frantically fixated on a future result. When anxiety and frantic anticipation are placed on achieving a goal then two modes of reactions seem to unfold: being a parent or being a child. This is a simplification of course. From the outside someone moving swiftly and frantically towards a future goal may not be seen as frantic because as a culture we have normalized the behavior – the drive to achieve goals – fear disappears.
Successful goal setters are admired as they are plugged into a future of immediate short-term growth that often disregards the whole of the journey for a narrow subset of values. Immediate profits disregard the impact to the organic world/planet, disregard social and economic justice for all, disregard the disenfranchised, race, gender / historically disregard women. Often successful goal achievers live within small exclusive social bubbles where their views are thought to include the whole of society regardless of others’ pre-existing conditions and disadvantages. If you live within this kind of bubble the reality of discrimination against poor, middle class peoples, and a disregard of the environment becomes invisible. The plugged in goal achiever treats him or herself and others (including the planet) as objects to be used. The journey is disregarded except to exhort that the ends (mostly within the law) justifies the means. Successful goal achievers often treat those that disagree with them as children creating an imbalanced power relationship.
The people that are neither parents nor children in this equation may be compassionate/neutral people working on being present in the context of the journey. (I’m purposely excluding those that have checked-out because of a tendency to revert to apathy and depression which may lead to feeling victimized.)
People who often feel powerless and revert to being in a one-down position may be more obviously frantic for the future because it may be seen as a fix or a “place” where one can be saved. Powerlessness may come from inexperience, may be gender, race or economically associated or related to addictive behaviors.
The achievers as described above – the parents- need the powerless to make themselves feel righteous and powerful. The children – or disenfranchised need the parents to find the answers or to continue to subject themselves to abuse or to rebel against the power possessors
All of us have been achievers-parents and disenfranchised-children from time to time (no pun intended). Its difficult to live for the journey, to be present, to live in a neutral compassionate place constantly. If you think you have accomplished being present you are most likely living in a illusory state.
As the income-inequality gap widens and we utilize tech toys in our daily lives there is a tendency to becoming increasingly distracted, separated from ordinary human to human interaction – talking face to face is one example, getting caught up in the shrinkage of the spoken word, and plugging into a shorter attention span – television, Twitter etc. pressures us into feeling frantic about the safety we long for in the future.
Breathe and relax into the present. We have great wisdom in our bodies (chronic illnesses not withstanding). Breathe, relax your musculature and let your breath within your lungs and how “the breath” affects the body let you into the present moment. When I notice myself spinning out into some future or worry I shift my attention with gentle love in kindness to my breath and sit in the big easy chair of the present.