The Map: Are You Stuck in the Past or Clinging to a Future Goal? Read on!!
Updated: January 14, 2011
Of course, we’re all physically here right now, but most of us don’t often truly live in the present moment. Our human minds have the incredible ability to draw us back into the past and propel us into the future, all while we go about our day-to-day lives. While it can sometimes be good to relive old memories and dream about our future, living in the past or future more than the present can also keep us stuck. How many times have you found yourself in a repetitive cycle you just can’t seem to break? Or, what about getting caught up on a future outcome, while avoiding things you need to focus on now? We’ve all been there, myself included. And, it’s time to stop this madness!
As you may know, my latest book, The Map: Finding the Magic and Meaning in Your Life, is set to hit the shelves on January 15. In the book, I teach you how to work with the map of your life. I lead you through a profound process to discover the inner landscapes you inhabit on your path—the unseen patterns, hidden motivations, and family legacies—and show you how to break free of whatever is holding you back from the super amazing and meaningful life that is your birthright. And, one of those things that can keep you stuck is time-wandering—
living “somewhen” other than the present moment.
Here’s a short quiz to find out when you’re often living:
- Does your mind often wander to past relationships or old frustrations or “failures”?
- Do you ever run scenarios in your mind about conversations you’ve had with someone or are about to have with them, taking your attention off, say, driving your car?
- Have you ever found yourself sitting in a meeting and running through scenarios that have nothing to do with it?
- Do you sometimes find yourself anticipating the worst to happen, just like it once did in your past experience? (I.e. He/She will leave me, just like the others.)
- Have you ever found yourself back in frustrating situations that are eerily similar to your past and make you feel powerless?
- When you’re frustrated with something in your life, do you tend to focus on your past or future rather than deal with your current emotions and experience?
If you answered yes to any of these questions (and I don’t have to be psychic to suspect we all had at least one yes!), it’s a sign of being somewhen else. And, when you’re somewhen other than the present, you lose your power in the now. As I’ve often said, the present is where all your power is! Each moment is where you have the magic wand to direct your life.
Of course, there’s absolutely no shame in having slipped back into an old landscape or in getting caught up in anticipating a future event. We all do, especially when we experience triggers and come upon an anniversary of a loss or event that caused pain. After all, we’re all on an adventure of life that has it’s dramatic elements; we can’t avoid frustrating landscapes altogether because challenges are part of our human experience. Indeed, some places are marked on our maps for us to visit repeatedly. The problem is that if we run away and refuse to face those experiences, as we often do in distressing or frustrating situations, we end up on autopilot. Even worse, when we avoid our emotions, we’re likely to find ourselves back in the same emotional place again. The good news is that when we practice mindfulness and recognize that we’re somewhen else, we claim our power to choose where we want to be. To have compassion for yourself for not being here right now actually brings you back to the present. And, as you learn to work with your map, you increase your power to remain in the present, to leave a difficult landscape when you’re meant to, and to avoid unnecessary trips to lands of sorrow!
So, what do you do when you realize the emotional landscape you are now inhabiting is familiar? For example, perhaps you’ve ended up with an “unavailable” partner who is eerily just like your last partner. Or, maybe you keep finding yourself in a dysfunctional work environment. Or, perhaps you’ve noticed that you keep ending up around negative people. Remember, your emotional landscapes are what create your outer experience. When you experience the same landscape again and again, it’s a sign that you haven’t truly taken the lesson of the place. Yes, you may feel you’ve done all the work, but there may still be wisdom that you previously overlooked. Likewise, Spirit is nudging you to live more in the present. Since much of our interaction with our maps is unconscious, we all tend to keep getting snapped back into traumatic emotional landscapes. The more mindful you are, the more you’ll recognize the synchronicities in your life. You have to become aware of where you are, when you are, and who is guiding you. Then, it’s much, much easier to get out of repetitive landscapes.
Understanding the true nature of time also helps us break the pattern of revisiting the same difficult experiences in our lives. In elementary school, most of us were taught that that time is linear, but it’s actually a spiral or fractal. Imagine a three-dimensional coil that spirals from the past to the future, looping around and around. Time is actually surreal. Even if you look at a historical timeline, you’d see that conditions repeat themselves and what is old becomes new again.
In his book Fractal Time, my friend and colleague Gregg Braden talks at length about the way in which conditions repeat in all of our lives, both collectively and individually, like the fractal pattern found in all of nature’s creations. The phrase “history repeats itself” is rooted in truth! Every time we’re invited to respond to outer events that repeat in cycles and patterns, we have an opportunity to change the course of our destiny. Likewise, when we begin to think a certain way about ourselves inwardly we can also blindly engage in an unwanted pattern that places us in familiar inner landscapes that we haven’t yet mastered. In other words, how we think about ourselves and the world we inhabit is the key to how our lives unfold. Repetitive cycles are invitations to liberate ourselves; we can be mindful and bring awareness and healing to those troublesome landscapes so we stop going back to them. When we embrace this truth about the nature of time, we no longer feel lost. We see that with loss comes gain, and with death comes new opportunity, just as winter thaws to spring.
The cyclical nature of time also teaches us the importance of surrender and patience. Just as the winter snow can’t be forced to melt and the new buds of spring bloom can’t be forced to bloom, you can’t force things to happen in your life on your own timetable. When you’re mindful and relax into the seasons of your life, you can truly enjoy whatever is happening your present. You can embrace being single, parenting your children, or being at the height of your career. You can take things as they come, knowing that life is always moving. When you slow down and surrender in the way, you actually have more access to time. Hopping through your past and future and back again actually ends up rushing time by creating stress in your life. Before you know it, you’ve spent hours analyzing, worrying, procrastinating, and so on. By stepping back, you finally find the clarity to navigate through your present… and you tap into your power to alter the Map of your past.
Yes, I did just say you can alter the Map of your past! When you slow down, you give yourself the space and power to rewrite and heal the stories in your heart. With this new clarity, you’re able to venture confidently into your future knowing that you can traverse similar landscapes without frustration. You see that you have the power to choose your perceptions about whatever you’ve experienced. You can transform memories of lands you traversed long ago, and even awaken new memories that match up with your new perception. Our memories are actually quite selective. Even in the moment when an event occurs, our minds can distort our perceptions dramatically to make it match up with the thoughts, feelings, and beliefs we have about ourselves, others, and the world around us. With the passing of time and those memories become more unreliable. We can get lost in the details of our memories, but if we look to our Map, we recognize the emotional experience and learn what we can from it, which then allows us to leave it in the past. In the book, I talk at length about how working with my perceptions and my Map enabled me to completely transform my relationship with my mom and awaken new memories that matched my new perception. It’s really possible to alter your past experience!
Remember, now is where all your power is to shape your Map—past, present and future!
Close your eyes as you focus on your breath. Let all your thoughts fade away and then ask yourself: Where am I? Allow your inner awareness to show you where you are and this place’s features.
Then, in your journal, take some time to describe the landscape you were just pointed to, and then answer the following questions: Have you been here before? Are you in the future or past? What emotions does this place invoke? What lessons are to be learned here? Have you been here before? If so, does it feel like you keep coming back for a reason? How can the experience of being in this particular landscape help you today?
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the power of when and your insights from the exercise. Please share your thoughts!
In service and love,
P.S. I go into much more detail about the power of when and practicing mindfullness in The Map, which is available for preorder now.