“Stop having conversations with people who are not present.” - Anon
“Wherever you are, be there. If you can be present now, you’ll know what it means to live.” - Steve Goodier
In the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin was taken off guard by someone criticizing him. “Well you just remember what you said, because in a day or two I’ll have a witty and blistering retort. And you’ll be sorry then!!” said Calvin.
How easy is it to replay or project conversations in our head? There are situations that we feel did not turn out well that we re-hash time and again. “I should have said _________ , then they would have said …..” and on the dialogue goes as we alternately torture ourselves for our incompetence or rationalize why we didn’t get the outcome we wanted. Or the other extreme – we project some future conversation and plot out both what someone is going to say to us and how we are going to respond. We “predict” future conversations in astonishingly precise detail - entirely rooted in pure fantasy. In the conversations past we find ourself “re-sensing” the circumstance – thus turning it into “resentment” against ourselves and/or the others involved. On the projection end, we are reacting to fear that we are not going to get something we think we want or we are going to lose something we think is ours. In either case, we have our feet firmly planted in thin air and are squandering the precious hours and days that make up our life. The reality is that most of these conversations never happen at all, and when they do they bear a scant resemblance to what we had imagined. In either case, we have our feet firmly planted in thin air and are squandering the precious hours and days that make up our life.
This can be a deeply ingrained habit that is very difficult to break. In fact, unless and until we fully make peace with our past and develop faith in our future we will continue to engage in it to one degree or another. But we can make much progress. The first step, as always, is to become aware that we are engaging in it. Chastising ourselves does not help – it merely wastes our time in a different manner. We must force ourselves into the present moment – whether that takes praying for knowledge of what we should be doing, figuring out something useful to do, making ourselves call or visit someone who needs help or any other tool at our disposal to bring ourselves back to reality. Over time, we will come to realize that having these imaginary conversations is a good barometer of where we are spiritually and thus catch ourselves before we do something we will regret later. And we can find peace in the fact that when we finally learn to fully surrender our will we will no longer have to second guess the words we use in the first place.
Today, may I live in reality.
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