Future Tripping

future trippingFuture Tripping. I came across this term a few days ago, and it got me thinking. For this entire semester, I wasted time doing something with no visible rewards. To do it, I let things slide that mattered to me, things that would have had visible rewards, things that would have benefited my family, things that would have brought me joy.

Most definitions say future tripping is worrying about the future, but some say simply spending more mental time there than here counts. For the past three months, I’ve been living that second definition. I am enamored of that coming day when my current commitments are finished and I can do more. And trust me, in my head, those coming days are no less than perfect. I will clear and clean my house, create the perfect landscape, write delightful books, market those books to zillions, blog wisdom to other zillions… Um. Right. Future tripping. Spending so much time worrying about or planning or considering┬áthe future that I miss the now. For me this semester, glamorizing the future as a way to escape the present.

There’s no sin in planning for the future. However, future tripping is when that future swallows up the present. Sometimes it’s worry. Sometimes it’s dreaming of the good life. When I started looking into simple living and minimalism, I kept finding the terms mindful living and intentional living. When learning about spiritual disciplines, Christian mindfulness came up. The idea is that we need to live in the moment. Sure, during some moments we have to plan for tomorrow. We plant and weed today so we can harvest and eat next month. That’s fine. But do I miss now for then?

Do I see what God is doing around me right now? Am I spending time with my children, who are growing and will soon be gone? Or my husband–do I think I can ignore that relationship for years and then expect to be his best friend on the day he retires? Don’t I need to pay attention to God, to people, to my life and home and world today?

Because tomorrow might not come. And even if it does, it won’t be today. If I miss today, it’s gone. God put me here, today, and that isn’t an accident. So. As I clear out my life and my schedule, I’m going to try not to think about how great life will be when I get there. I am here, right now. I won’t get anywhere without going through this moment. And then this moment. I want to be more mindful of these happening, living, vibrant, one-of-a-kind moments now and not look back and realize I wasted my life looking for things that may not happen and ignoring the blessings and workings of God all along the path.

Fortunately, there are kind souls out there willing to suggest practical ways of doing this, and I’ve pulled together a few right here. Maybe these ideas will spur other ideas until each of us finds our own ways of keeping ourselves focused on the current moment.

  1. Lose the screen. Come on, you knew that one had to be there. Screen time is very often lost time, dreaming of things we might own, a life we might have, living lives that aren’t ours and aren’t real. A lot is happening at eye level, and it’s real. Choose to see the physical world as well as the virtual world.
  2. Celebrate seasons. ┬áThis struck me, because I used to do this, and I don’t do it as much now. When my kids were little, I attended fall festivals and spring nature walks. We decorated for holidays and seasons. By seeing the real world around me and celebrating the changes, I can stay focused on now. And if I’m looking at the world God made, I have an easier time practicing the presence of God in all moments, too, which is the ultimate goal.
  3. Take up hobbies and activities that use the body and the senses. Do you engage in any activity that so focuses your mind and body that you completely lose track of time? I can do that in the pottery studio. Cooking a good meal. Even washing dishes by hand.
  4. Go outside. Walk, run, sit on the back porch. Watch the birds and neighbor dogs and neighbor kids and the sunset on cool evenings. Look at stars and the moon. Hike in a park.
  5. Practice set times of prayer. Pray the hours, or daily offices, or any other routine that forces you to focus on God and the moment several times each day. Pull yourself into the present and God’s presence on a regular basis through this time with him.
  6. Visit with friends. Or hold conversations with your spouse, children, anyone. Don’t you dare pull out your screen while you do. This is about focusing on what’s in front of you, and the human in front of you trumps everything else.
  7. Clear out the clutter. It’s easier to focus on now when now is taking place in a calm, orderly space. Clear out the schedule clutter, too. When my surroundings and my schedule reflect me and don’t run the show, I want to be in the moment.
  8. Accept this moment as one sent by God. Be thankful. Whether this moment is good or bad, it’s here. It is what it is, and what I do with it–that’s where I can trust and honor God or…not.

There are more. Many more. I just grabbed a few that sounded good to me, things I might do or things I’ve lost along the way. I’d love to hear your ideas, too. If you want to live mindfully, experiencing each moment and thanking God for each moment, how do you do it?

I need to stop future tripping–both worrying or glorifying it–and come back to now. God is here in the now. My kids are here in the now. My friends and family and work–all now. Time to stop escaping and work on making these moments count.

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