When Anxiety for the Future Feels Safer than Peace in the Now

I’ve committed to yet another self-experiment. I enjoy guinea-pigging myself to see how certain methods affect me. Mostly, I come out on top – learning more about myself along the way, and despite the discomforts of the experiment, I usually end up implementing at least part of the techniques in my daily life.

In this week’s episode of experimentation with Pearl, I have chosen to force my brain into the Now moment, over and over again. This may seem redundant, as most of my posts are about staying present, greeting each day with gratitude, blah blah blah.

But this is different, if only slightly (and we all know small changes can have big effects.) You see, despite believing that staying present, rather than stressing about the future and the past, is crucial to living a happy and fulfilled life, I must admit that I am not very good at practicing what I preach. So for the next eight days, I am actively forcing my brain to just be here, now.

You may say, “But Pearl, isn’t it important to plan the future and learn from the past?” And to that I say, yes, most definitely, but I add to my agreement the following caveat: I believe that there is a limit to the good effects of focusing on the past or the future. Yes, I gain so much insight about myself when I reflect on past gains or losses. However, replaying awkward moments or reliving scenes of my life that were either great and amazing or less than satisfactory, does more harm than good, because it takes me out of the present. The present moment is where life happens. The now is where the magic occurs.

This week’s experiment in forcing my brain back to exactly what is happening here, now, at this very second in the thing we call Time, is meant to help me fully believe the idea that being present is where the magic is.

I am a scientist in that I must experience a thing to believe it is real. Ethereal things like love, God, friendship, and peace, must be felt to be experienced. So here I am.

I believe in a conceptual way, that being fully and incandescently present is what allows me to do great things and take inspired action toward my dreams and goals. But believing is different from knowing – really, knowing.

So now until September 11, I aim to use my self-awareness to catch my brain when it begins focusing on the past or future. My task is to consistently bring it back to the present.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far: I trust myself way less than I pretend to. I literally catch myself worrying about things all the time! I feel surprised to learn this about myself, because I’ve come so far from the anxiety-wrecked, constantly-freaked-out, impending-doom girl that I was two years ago.

But I didn’t come this far, only to come this far. This exercise in presentness shows me that although have a great deal more self-awareness than when I started my spiritual journey (as hokey-pokey as that sounds,) I still have an autopilot mind that dwells in the future, or the past, much more than it dwells in the now.

And I somehow find that safer! I find that allowing my brain to ponder about my plans this weekend, or reflect on that school dance back in 2009, makes me feel more comfortable than simply relaxing into the present moment.

I feel sorry for the present moment – how left out, how inadequate it must feel. The present moment must hate me for only paying attention to it once it’s past, or when I was looking forward to it. “Pay attention to me now, dammit!” Is the constant cry of the present moment.

My experiment in present-moment living raises the following question: Why oh why does my body feel such anxiety to simply just be here now?

I did a little research on this and learned the following phrase: cybernetic mechanism. It basically means, that the human brain has a blueprint, and it will do anything to stick to that blueprint. The blueprint is our personality (ie: the way we think, feel, and behave.) The interesting part is that when a person decides to grow and do something unfamiliar, the original blueprints become very defensive and essentially block the change. This is why people tend to feel nervous or anxious when starting new things (of course, the goal for me is to be able to bypass that feeling of anxiety by becoming so comfortable with discomfort.) It’s because our blueprint is literally wired against whatever change we have in mind. This isn’t good or bad, right or wrong, it’s just the way our human nervous system works.

Here is the video I found that helped me grasp the concept:

To go back to my experiment on forcing my brain back into this now-moment: The anxiety I feel from not pondering the future or past, versus the comfort in analyzing and predicting things, shows me that my personal blueprint needs some serious updating! That is, if I really want to live a life that is fully present.

I love my self so much (sorry to be corny,) but the truth is I can’t get to where I wish to go, by continuing to do what got me here. I need to upgrade, adapt, and change. Yet again. This is literally a never-ending story.

I am helping my self change with compassion and love, not by shaming myself or putting myself down. Instead I am letting my old habits go with love and gratefulness. After all, they did get me this far. I treat my old mindset (at least, it will be old once I finish this experiment) the way a butterfly treats a caterpillar or its old cocoon. I feel like the butterfly looks back at the caterpillar and cocoon without judgement, if it looks back at all. Perhaps the butterfly takes a quick glance back, and then focuses all its energy on flying, sucking nectar, and making new friends.

I ask myself, if I am living totally in the now, what types of problems would I have? I might have problems of missing appointments because I am so wrapped up in writing this blog. I might have problems of losing track of time completely and staying up way past my bedtime. I may need to utilize alarm clocks and timers more than I do right now (because my current over-worrying mind acts as a constant alarm of “what am I missing?!”)

I might have the problem of (lmao) finishing projects so quickly that I have an excess of art and creations to share, and I may have to find new outlets to share my projects. I may become more successful than I am now, because I would be focused on the joy of living in the present, and would be getting a lot more of my joyous work done.

To begin closing off this rather rambly post, I want to share that I feel very excited and happy to be re-writing the blueprints of my personality. Or rather, allowing my new butterfly self to write them for me, like magic.

The logical mind knows a lot less than the heart, and I feel excited and a little nervous, to turn over 100% of my daily life to my heart.

I love my mind and my brain. It’s super cool. But the magic, I know, comes from my heart. The unconditional love I feel for people, comes from my heart. I can’t think my way out of this one, and I can’t think my way into it. I have to feel it, and feeling requires presence like I’ve never known before.

Maybe I’ll write more on this experiment later. We’ll see how I feel.

Have a blessed now,

Pearly ❤

PS – What does being present in the now mean to you? How do you juggle the necessary human tasks of picking up kids from school, keeping appointments, and taking the brownies out of the oven in time, with maintaining a present mind? Is cultivating awareness and bringing your mind back to the present over and over again, fun or debilitating? Let me know in the comments. xo

By justpearlythings

I am a writer, a lover, and a believer in the good things in life. I write about mental health and wellness, along with book reviews and fashion opinions. My blog caters to thoughtful, growth-minded women and men, and offers insights and personal challenges that provide a space for relevant, meaningful connection. The World Wide Web is vast, it contains multitudes, and so do we as people. I believe that through self-awareness and honesty, we create a more loving planet for everyone. Feel free to follow this page and share it with friends and family. Love, Pearl

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