There are two kinds of time: healthy time and unhealthy time. Healthy time is living in the now. Unhealthy time is living in everything that’s not the here and now. Most of us spend our days dweling on the past or obsessing about the future. We get up in the morning thinking about all the things we need to get done in the day. On the drive to work, we analyze past relationships, our accomplishments, our failures, those expensive shoes we’re waiting for to go on sale, the potential raise, our credit card bill, the date last night, the party this weekend. Then at work, more to-dos, rehearsing your presentation in your head, why we you’re gaining weight, losing your hair, why he didn’t call, she didn’t write, reminding ourselves to stop being a push over, debating what we want for lunch, how to change our parents, talk to our boss, address our lover, and suddenly the day is over. Now we’re in bed, replaying the day and where we could have done more. This causes insomnia which means we wake up grouchy as we start our mental machine all over again.
First, let’s talk about the past. It’s okay to remember. A lot has happened that has left Sasquatch size imprints in your heart and brain. No one enters adulthood unscarred. So there’s been trauma. Shitty shit has happened that you had no control over. There were unexpected events that were unfair to you. And these events have made you angry, afraid, regretful, and have wired you a certain way. This wiring sends you into unhealthy thought and behavior patterns that affect you today. Again, this is your pseudo self kicking in. It won’t allow you to accept your story. It reminds you of everything you did wrong and shames you for it. It tells you that you must be better because you are not good enough as you are. It wants you to internalize this and start labeling yourself. It wants you to devalue yourself. So how do we let go of all this, everything that’s happened to us. Well, let’s start with “to us”. We say that a lot when describing the past. This happened to us. That happened to us. The problem with “to us” is that it puts us in victim mode. When we believe we are or were victims, we become powerless. We then go into a state of hiding and self-protection. We must stop playing victim. It will keep you stuck. Change your language. Things didn’t happen to you. They happened through you. What happened is all a part of your story and you must accept it. The more meaning you find in all the events that have lead to where you are now and the more you own them, the less you will feel like a victim anymore.
If you believe you were a victim, the past will always hold you hostage.
Your true self has already accepted your story (everything that’s happened till this moment). It encourages you to live in the present. Consciously doing this, forcing yourself to live in healthy time, is exercising your transparency muscle.
Now let’s talk about the future. The unknown is scary. It’s something I’ve struggled with my entire life. I don’t know about you but I want an amazing life, one with meaning and purpose and financial security. And not knowing if that’s going to ever happen is terrifying. Yes I can tell you that I do feel purpose and meaning these days. But I can also tell you that I want two homes, a Korean barbeque in my backyard, and a collection of motorcycles. If I didn’t, I’d be lying. I can also tell you that we have power to create our own destiny. We can make anything happen. But that would just be me being pseudo because that’s what I believe life coaches are supposed to say and what you want to hear. The truth is the future scares the shit out of me. I’m forty two and I still feel like I haven’t grown up yet, because I rent and I don’t know what next month will bring. So how do I not allow tomorrow to affect today? How do I live in “healthy time”? For starters, I practice gratitude.
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.
• Melody Beattie
Here’s the thing about gratitude. If you don’t practice it daily, it will be nothing more than a trending wellness buzzwords. In the world we live in, it’s extremely difficult to want less. We naturally want more. And there’s nothing wrong with that as long as wanting more doesn’t keep us obsessing about the future and focused on everything we don’t have. We rarely practice gratitude daily. Our gratitude is sprinkled through out the year. Usually during holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and our birthday. We’ve all tasted it, in moments. You remember the warm feeling of Christmas morning when people are passing around presents. You feel love and kindness and nothing else matters. Or sitting around a home cooked feast with friends and family for Thanksgiving dinner and feeling grateful for little things that you forget about, like your health. The “surprise” moment when you walk into a birthday party your friends have been planning for months. Yes, we’ve all felt gratitude in moments. But moments are fleeting and so quickly we snap back like a rubber band into our sticky thinking. To stretch that, to clear our minds, we must practice gratitude daily. It will bring the power back to us and give us peace instead of anxiety. Like meditation, gratitude must be a practiced every single day in order for it to change our thinking, our state, and eventually our lives. The constant reminding that we have enough, that there is good in our relationships, that we can build something with what we have, is what clears our mental and emotional canvas and gives us space to paint again.
Remember, living in healthy time doesn’t mean never reflecting on events from the past or thinking about the future. It just means not dwelling or obsessing. Not holding on to. Not allowing yesterday and tomorrow to define today. Because today is where our power lives.
PRATICE: Two Kinds of Time
I could tell you to write down five things you truly feel grateful for before you to bed every night, hoping that becomes a powerful routine that keeps you in the here and now instead of the past and future. But if you’re like me, you’ll do it once or twice then get lazy or just go through the motions until it quickly fades. So instead, I would rather you experience something.
Feel your state right now as you read this? What’s on your mind or been on your mind that’s causing anxiety? Is it tied to something in the past? Are you comparing past events or relationships to current ones? Is there anxiety about something that hasn’t happened yet? Are you worried about what’s about to come or that something isn’t coming? Feel it, without judgment.
Take a deep breath.
Now focus on what you are grateful for. Today. Right now. What do you have in your life that you are truly feel grateful for? Your partner? Kids? Friends? Your health? A stable job? Your new car? What about how far you’ve come? Think about five things you are currently grateful for right now. As you think about each, really soak in it. Why are you grateful for those things? It doesn’t matter how big or small they are as long as they are honest. Take your time with this. Sit with it. Make it a spiritual experience. This is important. It allows it to be greater than you.
Quick, before your mind drifts into worry and pulls you back into unhealthy time, how do you feel? Do you feel any difference in your state?
If you truly felt gratitude, you would have noticed a shift in your feeling. There should be a sense of calm. A washing. Some sort of relief, even if it was mild and temporary. Feeling present. Maybe even a sense of purpose. Feelings are convincing. If you felt this, hopefully you want more of it. It’s there for you and it’s free.
Everyone has their own way of practicing gratitude. Some enjoy writing. Some prefer to do it like a meditation. Some like to actually acknowledge their gratitude by telling others. It doesn’t matter how you do it. What matters is that you practice it daily. Here are some tips. Commit. Like any discipline, you have to first make a decision to do it. Don’t “try it”. Commit to it. Say you’ll do it diligently for a month without it being contingent to results. Without a commitment, it will be short lived. Gratitude is something that gains momentum over time with practice. Start strong by committing to a certain period of time. Begin. Thinking about it and coming up with a solid plan doesn’t matter if you never begin. Don’t procrastinate. The longer you wait, more it will drop down on your to-do list. Start today. Done. No excuses. Feel it. Gratitude is not a mental exercise. The power lives in the feeling of it. Allow it to start at your heart and percolate through every cell in your body. Embody it. Embrace it. Let it live inside you.
Make it a spiritual experience. Practicing gratitude means making it greater than yourself. It will make your world instantly big. Thread it into your life. Observe moments through out the day when you can allow the feeling of gratitude to set in. Make gratitude a mindset, not just a daily exercise. This will not only help with your practice but it will change you as a person. It will make you less reactive and angry, and more filled with love and purpose. Share it. Share what you are grateful with others. Gratitude can be extremely contagious. The more you spread it, the more it will grow inside you.
When you realize there’s nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.
• Lao Tzu