OK, so there are also many examples in reverse, where your preparation in the present proved useful in the future. Great! You’re a high-functioning, responsible adult. But when cultivating mindfulness, it pays to practice discretion in the types of future preparation you undertake. This discretion in itself takes awareness—of self and of the present moment--so you can be sure of what’s important.
I recently struggled with a mindfulness conundrum. I was about to enter the yoga class I take every Tuesday when my phone rang. It was a national fitness magazine calling to say they were looking for a Boston-based yoga teacher to profile on their webpage and wanted to see if I’d be a good fit. Class was starting in less than 5 minutes so I asked to postpone the conversation. As I walked into class I wondered to myself if I had just made an idiot mistake. Did I really just blow off a chance at free national publicity? I asked myself whether it would be more beneficial to drop out of the class and call the magazine back, or continue with my deeply important ritual and hope for the best in 90 minutes.
I decided to stay in class, and I worked hard to focus on my breath and the asana in order to keep my mind in class too. It was a great class and I felt great afterwards, as I do every Tuesday.
I walked out to my car and called the magazine back. After chatting for 5 minutes, the man said I sounded like a great fit. For a paid advertisement targeted to Boston IP addresses. For just $250/month with a 12-month commitment. Wow. Glad I didn’t skip my class for that scam—glad I didn’t let my attention be diverted from a valuable and important present.
So here’s my point: You can’t know what will happen in the future, but you can know what’s happening now. All you have to do is pay attention and stay focused. The future will eventually become the present and you can put your focus on it then. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted willy-nilly by any and all that comes your way. Keep a clear mind by asking yourself what’s really important RIGHT NOW and what can wait until another moment. If a new event or piece of information comes to you and is indeed important, you’ll be able to recognize it. Mindfulness is a non-judgmental practice; choices and actions lead to other choices and actions and “it is what it is” at each given second. No room to beat yourself up because you made the “wrong” choice. If the magazine profile had not been a sales pitch but had been a real opportunity, and if I had missed the opportunity by postponing the call, I would have bucked up and moved on. I’ve been diligent in cultivating this attitude and I can’t think of another approach that would serve me quite as well.