"Now goes quickly. See, now it's past!" - Stephen Sondheim
One of the most difficult things I try to practice each day is living in the "NOW". I am a thinker and find that I spend way too much of my day-to-day life just thinking and questioning everything. What do I do with my future? What and how much I'm eating? How is the way I live related to how I was raised? Is there going to be an "ah-ha!" moment when I finally get it? Where do babies come from? Why is the sky blue?... Okay, those last two were just for fun... or were they? (SEE!)...
I'm quite sure there are other people who, whether consciously or unconsciously, have this ongoing dialogue in their brain. How do you stop the constant conversations and not feel like you need to find answers to questions that just will never have a concrete solution? I've found a few things that help.
First thing is to change how you think about thinking. Sounds quite cliché, I know. Try this.
Imagine you're sitting on a bench at the platform of a busy train station. You're not waiting for any particular train nor are you in any rush to move from your comfortable seat. Perhaps you take your phone out and take a selfie, check Facebook, or text a friend. A train approaches the station platform filled with passengers. The train stops and the doors slide open. Few people decide to step off the train onto the platform. A couple new passengers choose to climb aboard. The doors close and the train departs; you choose to sit.
Ten minutes later, another train arrives at the station platform. The doors slide open and a few more people step off of the train onto the platform. Some take their time and walk calmly, while others push their way through the crowds to make up for lost time. The doors close and the train departs; you choose to sit.
Five minutes go by. Another train swiftly pulls into the station. The doors open and few people exit the train. There is no one waiting to board. The train idles there for ten more minutes with the doors wide open. You wonder if the doors are stuck and if there may be an issue with this train. You decide to stand up from your warm bench to walk over and take a gander. You approach the train and stand on the edge of the station platform. You hesitantly poke your head inside the doorway. There are no passengers onboard. You decide to avoid this train and just let it pass. Returning to your spot on the bench, the doors of the train close and it departs the station platform.
Each train that passes is like a thought. We as human beings have the option to take the train or to remain on the platform. We get to choose which thoughts to entertain and explore and which ones we will let pass us by. Sure, they will come again and the thought may be there. But you get to decide whether or not you want to travel and explore those ideas and conversations in your mind. Some thoughts will have no destination and some will. Some will derail you and others may keep you stuck at the station.
This analogy of the train station, along with 5 to 10 minutes of meditation, has improved how I react to situations at this moment in my life and has reshaped how I think about thinking. It's given me freedom and understanding that I don't have to think to find answers. I just have to sit and watch the trains go by. If I get on one, great! Let's see where it goes. If I keep sitting, then I keep sitting and nothing happens.