Sometimes you have to be at the right place in your life to properly hear advice. It’s why people read books for a second and third time. You get something different each time, because you’re in a different place in your life. It’s why someone can give you advice many times, over many years – and then one time it just clicks and you immediately make a change.
I listened to Chris Williamson interview Sam Harris on his Modern Wisdom podcast earlier in the week. It’s a great conversation. About half way through, Chris quoted something Sam said in a public talk. I immediately paused the podcast, and listened to it back. I then googled the transcript so I could read it a few times:
But, as a matter of conscious experience, the reality of your life is always now. And I think that this is a liberating truth about the nature of the human mind. In fact, I think, there’s probably nothing more important to understand about your mind, than that, if you want to be happy in this world.
The past is a memory; it’s a thought arising in the present. The future is merely anticipated; it is another thought arising now. What we truly have is this moment. And we spend most of our lives forgetting this truth, refuting it, fleeing it, overlooking it.
And the horror is that we succeed. We manage to never really connect with the present moment and find fulfilment there, because we are continually hoping to become happy in the future. And the future never arrives. Even when we think we’re in the present moment, we’re, in very subtle ways, always looking over its shoulder, anticipating what’s coming next. We’re always solving a problem. And it’s possible to simply drop your problem, if only for a moment. And enjoy whatever is true of your life in the present.
The quote from Sam did stir something up in me. Perhaps it was the elegance of how Sam talked about it. Perhaps it was because of where I am in my life – I’m ready to hear it, and act on it. Perhaps the stars needed to align with my subconscious and conscious for it to click with me. Who knows. But, what I do know is that I think it’s going to start a new journey for me.
I thought I did a fairly decent job of not dwelling on the past, or being too fixated on the future. It’s a big part of why I let go of goals in my life, and instead focus on the process and a direction I want to head. But, as I listened to Chris quote Sam, I realised, I have a WAY to go.
This part of the quote particularly resonated with me:
Even when we think we’re in the present moment, we’re, in very subtle ways, always looking over its shoulder, anticipating what’s coming next. We’re always solving a problem.
As I reflect, I realise I still do a lot of thinking about the past and future. Even when I think I’m being present and in the moment, there’s still a lot of internal dialogue pulling me all over the place. Like Sam said, it’s subtle – but it makes all the difference. If I’m truly honest with myself, being present and in the moment is a very fleeting moment for me.
As I was thinking more about this, the first feeling I got was one of frustration and regret. How much time have I wasted? How lame is it that I can’t just settle into the moment and enjoy life? After a while, it turned into thinking about what an opportunity I have in front of me. I have an opportunity to turn the dial from a two out of ten, to a five. And then an eight – maybe even a ten? This could be transformative for me.
So, where do I start?
The first thing that comes to mind is that self awareness is half the battle. This in itself is going to change how I do things, and how I talk to myself.
The second thing that comes to mind is I need to re-explore meditation and listen to more of Sam. So, I’m going to subscribe to his Making Sense Podcast and the Waking Up app (a mix of meditation and mindfulness education). And we’ll go from there. 🙂
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