“I just think people are always doing that.”
“They’re always asking themselves, ‘Where am I going?’ but they’re never looking around and asking, ‘Where am I?’ Everything’s about what’s going to be next instead of noticing what’s happening right now. But the now is the only thing that’s actually real.”
— Autumn Doughton
We want to introduce a bit of mindfulness to your day. While we aren’t teaching meditation, there are a couple of lenses from the practice that are important enough to warrant attention. And truly, noticing is the practice of paying attention to your attention.
How do you feel right now? Anxious? Tired? Happy? Excited? How often do we actually sit and pay attention to what we’re really feeling? When someone asks how you are, and you say “fine” as a reflex, you’re missing an opportunity to actually check in.
And before long, “fine” becomes an excuse to not be honest with ourselves.
So let’s change the story. Becoming aware of how we feel, what our energy levels are, what feels good—all of that changes how we perceive time.
When we check in with how we feel in the present moment, we leave the past and the future alone. When we aren’t ruminating on past mistakes, depression is easier to put down. When we aren’t fretting over future worries, anxiety is easier to put down. Concentrating on the present moment—the only place we can actually effect change—expands the now, giving us all the time we need to make the decisions that improve our lives.
David Foster Wallace writes:
Imagine that you’re a person with preternaturally good reflexes and coordination and speed, and that you’re playing high-level tennis. Your experience, in play, will not be that you possess phenomenal reflexes and speed; rather, it will seem to you that the tennis ball is quite large and slow-moving, and that you always have plenty of time to hit it.1
What he is describing is the feeling of being in flow; being fully, totally connected to the present moment, in a way that makes seconds turn into minutes. While we can’t promise that you’ll become a tennis superstar just by noticing how you feel, we can say that this exercise is an important piece of the “All The Time In The World” puzzle.
“Federer as Religious Experience.” Both Flesh and Not: Essays, by David Foster Wallace, Back Bay, 2013, pp. 5–36. ↩