The Emotion of the Future, the Freedom of the Present (How do you know the rain is wet when you’re inside?)

looking at the rainHow quickly and how often we get pulled into the future, into what we believe will happen. Our belief in the future is so strong and fundamental, we might not even realize it or think to question it. When we’re stuck in our belief of the future we’re no longer experiencing the present moment as it is; we’re affecting the moment with our belief of what will happen later. Sometimes this might seem positive, like when you’re anticipating meeting a good friend. At other times it might seem negative, like when you’re dreading the result of a test. You’re feeling excitement or dread about what is yet to come. Both were created by your belief about what will happen in the future. But in the moment you are not with your friend and you are not getting a negative test result. You are where you are. Connecting with the present moment and appreciating it for itself is a skill. Part of this skill is recognizing the power of your own thinking and the seemingly unquestionable truth of your own beliefs…and then playing around.

For instance, when I was guiding a yoga class recently, it began to rain. Loud sheets of rain drummed on the roof of the studio. First I bemoaned the fact that I hadn’t brought an umbrella with me and would get soaked on my way home. Later I felt amazed at the quantity of rain coming down and the mighty sound it made on the roof (the Midwest has some spectacular storms) and I thought I might enjoy being out in that weather experiencing it. Thus my annoyance turned to delighted anticipation. These thoughts all happened in a flash.

As we progressed I was absorbed in guiding the class and forgot about the rain…until I was walking outside and suddenly realized I was completely dry! I started laughing in the crisp, post-rain air. My solid belief that I had so strongly accepted not an hour earlier was proved completely wrong. It was a belief I certainly didn’t question at the time. It was so obvious that I didn’t give it a second thought. “It’s raining. Rain makes things wet. Therefore, when I go outside I will get wet.” Makes sense, right? Why would I ever question that? But there I was outside and completely dry. My belief about the future was wrong.

When I work directly with people, I bring these beliefs into the physical realm of their bodies and their movement. Playing with beliefs in a physical way helps transform what could be a merely intellectual understanding into a directly felt experience. I guide them into letting go of predicting the future of their own movement, which means letting go of their expectations and letting go of their fears of pain and strain that accompany those expectations.

When you’re comfortable playing around with small, inconsequential beliefs like this you can start to nudge bigger ideas, ideas like who you think you are, how you think others see you, what’s going to happen to you tomorrow, next week, in a year. And in playing with those beliefs the anxiety, the fear, the sadness and the negativity surrounding them begins to disappear.

In the class the sound of the rain helped me partially connect to the present moment and that definitely changed my experience. But if I’m honest, I was still hanging on to my belief about the future. I was able to change my initial reaction of annoyance into one of anticipatory delight – a mental trick I have fun with – but my thoughts were still about the future. What can be more fun and beneficial is challenging and letting go of the belief itself, the belief of what will be, what is to come. So the next time you discover your own belief about the future, something so obvious, so clear and undeniable that you don’t think there’s any way around it, remember: rain isn’t wet unless you’re in it! And even then, maybe not.

How does that strike you?