“The only thing that is ultimately real about your journey is the step that you are taking at this moment. That’s all there ever is.” ~Alan Watts
One thing that is promised to each one of us in life is death. No one will avoid dying or feeling the pain of losing others. From a young age I remember being aware of this fact, and it scared me.
As I got older, I began to feel a sense of pressure that I was running out of time and loss was imminent. The thought of losing my loved ones and the uncertainty of what may happen worried me. I wanted to avoid the feelings of loss and limitation, so I unconsciously began to move faster.
There was a deep fear that if things didn’t happen fast, they would not happen at all and that I wouldn’t have enough time.
Faster became better, and I started the hamster race of working hard to achieve my dreams. Whether that was finishing school, starting a career, being in a healthy relationship, starting a family, being fit… even my spiritual journey became a race to happiness that only existed in the future!
I realized later in life that this mindset was born out of fear—the fear of loss, the fear of the unknown—and protection from these fears was a quick accomplishment. It created an immense amount of stress and suffering because all goals and dreams take time to build.
I believed sooner was better, and if it wasn’t fast then it wasn’t happening at all. I began to find reasons for why it wasn’t happening—that I was not good enough, life was unfair and hard, and it was not possible for me. Each time I repeated these limiting beliefs, I took one step away from my dreams and developed more anxiety.
This led to a cycle of starting, quitting, and then searching for something different. I would garner the courage to start something new only to fall flat on my face when it didn’t happen. The cycle of shame would repeat, impacting my mental health and my ability to move forward.
I wanted to see proof that I was achieving my goals and searched for tangible evidence to feel good while simultaneously ignoring all the wonderful things that were right before my eyes. Like living near the ocean, spending time with my loved ones, talking walks along the coast, having meaningful conversations with friends, and enjoying moments of quiet with my favorite cup of coffee. These mean so much to me now.
I wanted the degree, the paycheck, the happy photo of me surrounded by friends, rather than the silence of uncertainty and the impatience I felt in the present. My fear of time took away the only real time that existed, the now.
When I slowed down and paused, I realized that I had experienced so much growth and expansion in all the years I’d thought I was wasting time. Every roadblock had challenged me to change. In fact, my anxiety, fear, and disappointment around my slow progress led me inward to heal my relationship with time.
Though many of my dreams did come true, I was only able to recognize them when I slowed down and let go of the “when.”
I was able to achieve this by practicing meditation, breathwork, and awareness. With time and consistency, the present moment became filled with color, and its beauty swept me away from the ticking time bomb of the future. I began to enjoy each step of my journey, whether it was the beginning or end.
With the gift of hindsight, I can see that it is not about the “when” but about the “what.” What I’m doing right now in the present. The number of negative and limiting beliefs I placed upon myself and the shame I felt were due to an emphasis on always “thinking forward,” and a lack of being with myself in the present.
The truth is when we let go of our misconceptions of time and follow our dreams patiently, we see that time is not against us; the process is a necessary part of our journey.
The time it takes to reach our goals is not empty; it is filled with learning and unlearning so that we find ourselves. In the end it is not the achievement that leads to freedom, but the wisdom that comes from living life.
If we make the present moment our friend rather than our foe, we can experience and appreciate our present journey rather than focusing on our arrival.