“The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.” Rabindranath Tagore
It’s as if this past week has been dedicated to the future, as people in both my personal and professional life have insisted I look ahead. For work it’s more than just encouragement; we had a conference this week that urged us to plan for our life after our service. We were asked to think about the career we want to have, the passion that drives us, and what options we have to obtain our dreams. These are big questions! For me, I still think that there is so much I would like to do. Yet these workshops, conferences, etc. make me feel like time is running out. Act now, know now, prepare now! Its as if I must decide NOW to determine the rest of my life. Heavy questions, important answers. It’s no surprise that looking ahead and even thinking about what’s to come can be overwhelming.
I believe in the importance of looking forward to the future, but I often fall into a cycle of constantly planning what’s to come that I forget the present. The precious moment that I have now is gone before I have a chance to appreciate it. It’s like a receiver in football anticipating his next run to the point that he drops the ball hitting his chest. I find that thinking this way is not exclusive to thoughts regarding my career. Often in my relationships, fitness goals, and even eating, I am thinking about the next move. My mind likes to fill with thoughts of “what if,” or “what’s next,” and sometimes even “when will this goes wrong.” The amount of time and energy wasted thinking about my future affects my present. There is nothing I truly have but now and yet I cannot help but thinking about maintaining it in the future. I’ve mentioned this before, but our attempt to control our future has the potential to live in our today as competitiveness, jealousy, doubt, and panic.
How can we look ahead without fumbling ourselves now?
Not that I have the answers, but I know that it is simply one foot at a time. We must pay attention to each step (and that step primarily) before looking to our next. It’s a fine and complicated balance. When I hike, I must constantly switch my gaze from the ground to the path ahead to ensure that I neither trip on a root nor lose my way. If I always try to see where the path is going, I could lose my footing. If my eyes only follow my feet, I lose where I am going. Even practicing yoga requires discipline with each move. I cannot simply jump into an arm balancing pose without carefully placing my hands, shifting weight, and then mindfully combining strength with movement.
So, as if every day were a hike, I have vowed to look ahead, but not too far in front of me. I see no problem in planning little things, establishing monthly goals, and having an ultimate dream. But it’s okay to not always be moving “directly” toward that dream. To me, it feels stifling and chore-like when I think I must act continuously towards a goal. Doing purely for the sake of interest, not need. As my beloved philosopher Dumbledore said, “The consequences of our actions are so complicated, so diverse, that predicting the future is a very difficult business indeed.” We cannot determine what step will bring us into a dream unimagined, so I must live with my eyes open to the moments. There is no guarantee in planning, so I cannot depend on my plan. I cannot plan that in a year from now my relationships will still me intact; I can only be a wonderful lover and friend today. I cannot say that everything I work for today will lead me to a comfortable life free of worry. What I can depend on is the power in continually moving, growing, learning for the sake of living through which we will succeed.
Like the butterfly, try to count your moments in flight.