Smiling at the Past and Living in the Present
I find myself walking along the humid, musky paths of Chapultepec Park in Mexico City on a wonderfully sunny September morning. My boyfriend is walking right in front of me, talking to one of his closest friends about a meeting they are on their way to. To give them some privacy, as well as to enjoy some solo time, I put my headphones on and play a meditation I hadn’t heard in a while, but remember liking a lot. This meditation talks about the three most important questions we need to ask ourselves about our lives, and prompts me to visualize my desires for three different areas of my life.
I allow my mind to wander, and bask in the beauty of the emerald-green nature all around me while keeping an ear to the voice coming from my headphones. The first part of the meditation involves thinking about what I would like as part of my life experiences–in other words, to daydream about the kinds of travels I would like to do, the people I would like to meet, the kind of place I would like to live in, the food I would like to savor, etc. I start thinking about all of these experiences that I desire, and realize that I don’t need to follow my train of thought for too long to find the answers. My life actually looks a lot like my ideal vision.
The next exercise entails a similar visualization, except this time it probes me to think about my ideal health and wellness. As before, I realize that my desired state is very similar to my reality. For the third and last exercise, the theme of the visualization is growth and contribution, and the same thing happens.
I stop in my tracks and pause. My eyes open wide and my breath halts for a moment as the realization hits me in the gut. My desired life, my ideal, is very similar to what my life actually looks like. I pause again. Chills run up and down my spine and I feel tingly all over.
When did this happen? Last time I heard this audio–which can’t have been more than a couple of years ago–my life looked nothing like I wished. Last time I did this exercise, my stomach shrunk at the thought of how far my ideal life was from my actual day-to-day experience. How did this happen?
My eyes open wide and my breath halts for a moment as the realization hits me in the gut. My desired life, my ideal, is very similar to what my life actually looks like.
In reality, I haven’t gotten everything I have ever wanted; neither do I live a life free from complications. On the contrary, my life has never been so full of challenges and hurdles. Nonetheless, it feels bright and light, and I feel free. So what’s changed?
Last time I heard this meditation, I had recently finished my graduate studies, I was living in New York City, and I felt absolutely terrified about taking the next step. I was unsure about whether or not I wanted to pursue a doctorate or whether my best bet was to get a 9-to-5 job at an agency, whilst dreaming of traveling and writing for a living. I kept hearing all sorts of opinions about what the “best” thing for a woman my age and in my field was. My mind was a web of worries, doubts, and insecurities. I felt like a feather in the wind being thrown back and forth by everyone else’s opinions. I was completely disconnected from myself and felt totally lost.
Since that day I’ve worked at a 9-to-5 agency, taken a sabbatical, traveled, written, and done countless other visualization exercises. The uncertainty of life hasn’t gone away and I am still in the process of growing, personally and professionally. The difference–the ginormous difference–is that before, I used to gaze ahead terrified of my options unsure of my capacity to face them. Today, I see my life ahead as an adventure, and I feel strong enough to seize it.
The extreme pressure I felt from the world has forced me to live in the now, have patience with the process, and trust myself. By being completely in the now, without wondering and wishing so much, my life has taken on a rhythm of its own. I’ve gone from micromanaging every step of the way to enjoying the big picture and appreciating my day-to-day activities. Having this sort of clarity, trust, and inner strength, I’ve been able to immerse myself fully in the experience of living, while allowing things to fall into place. I’ve learned to let life flow and to let things go.
By being completely in the now, without wondering and wishing so much, my life has taken on a rhythm of its own.
It hasn’t been an easy journey. I’ve had to make really difficult decisions and wildly change the way I operate in the world. Taking control over one’s life is not a smooth-sailing ride. It requires grit and courage. It involves strength of character to shut down others’ opinions and stay strong in the face of naysayers.
Looking at the tall, shady trees this morning while walking in the park, enveloped by the scent of musky nature, I smile while reminiscing about the past. I am at peace with my present, and excited about my future. I guess I was never really looking for my life to look any specific way. I was actually craving for it to feel the way it feels now. You can have the life that you desire, but only if you are willing to jump into uncertainty and love the groundlessness of an authentic life.