Remember that man lives only in the present, in this fleeting instant: all the rest of his life is either past and gone, or not yet revealed. This mortal life is a little thing, lived in a little corner of the earth;
I was reminded last night of a memory I had in my childhood: kids teasing me in the lunchroom because my food was different than theirs. I remember how I felt: ostracized, alone, ashamed. And I felt those things again.
When I look back in time, or forward in time, it’s usually for these reasons: back because I see connection between now and then, and forward because I’m anticipating, planning, attempting to control what will come. What good does this do?
Well, to tell myself never to think forward or backward would be unrealistic. Also, some reminiscing and planning is a good thing: to appreciate how I’ve grown and changed since I was a kid, to appreciate good memories I’ve had, and to look forward to and take action towards things coming up. So how much is enough?
I answer this question with another question: does this thought serve me? If it doesn’t serve to help me live my life, my dharma (purpose), then set it aside. How?
Meditation! When I sit quietly with my thoughts, I become familiar with the feeling of actually experiencing them, instead of pushing them aside as they bubble up during work, during asana, or when I’m scrolling through Facebook or reading the news. Then I can decide whether they’re helping my day, my week, my goals or not.
In the 8-limb path (astanga) of yoga, meditation (dhyana) is the seventh limb. That’s because it’s not easy! To prepare for meditation limbs 1-6 suggest observing and acting from a conscious and conscientious perspective (yamas, niyamas), practicing yoga poses, bringing awareness to your breath, and turning your attention and focus inward.
Beyond the eight limbs, I believe that yoga is about beginning again. So when I’m thinking about things once again that don’t serve me or those around me, I can think of it as a chance to act from my True Self. “Thanks, but I’m good. That was then, this is now.” Or “Hey, who knows what will happen? I’m going to enjoy this smoothie and sunny day because they’re right here in front of me.” And then I do.