I have long held a fascination with the idea of time travel. Movies with time travel themes, such as 'Time after Time' (1979), 'Back to the Future' (1985, 1987 and 1990), ‘Groundhog Day’ (1993) and ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ (2004) were among my favourites. Seeing the world through the eyes of someone who has been catapulted to an unknown time and place has always felt incredibly exciting. Imagining the strange, terrifying, overwhelming feelings that the individual would experience was an exercise in stepping outside of my comfort zone. And contemplating the ability to influence or change the present by actions taken in the past seemed too tempting to resist.
But the reality is that we can't see into our future and we can't go back to change the mistakes of the past, much as we might like to. Despite this, many of us do a lot of emotional time traveling every day. Some of us are stuck in an unresolved past, fretting and regretting about what we did and what we should have done instead. And some of us are lost in some illusion of the future, agonizing or dreading over what might happen. We fall into habits of being elsewhere rather than here and now. And we waste precious time with others and ourselves when we do so.
It's great to escape while at the movies, but escaping from our present lives is such a shame. How many of us have missed opportunities of trying something new because of our fear of the unknown? Or ruined relationships because of our preoccupation with past ones? How many of us are currently floating through life on automatic pilot, not really noticing what is around us?
How do we change these habits so that we can be more fully present? There is no question that it is hard to shift our focus, when we have had years of practice in living another way. But just as we learned to avoid our present, we can learn to engage in it again.
Here are some ideas on how to do so:
1. Engage your 5 senses in your activities. Become aware of how things look, feel, sound, taste, and smell.
2. Reduce distractions and stimuli around you. Try to focus on one thing at a time.
3. When you are feeling nervous about something, sit in a quiet place and focus on your breathing.
4. Actively listen to the other people in your life, without preparing a rebuttal, retort or reaction while listening.
5. Do yoga or meditation.
Do you have any ideas that you would like to share? I'd love to hear from you. Feel free to get in touch!