I hope you don’t mind if I share a few of my more abstract thoughts with you today. I hope that sharing those thoughts will get you thinking. I really hope that I stitched this all together in a way that actually makes some sort of sense. Today’s post got kind of long in a hurry. It is an interesting way to look at how we view things. Certainly not science. Certainly nothing that I expect to change the world. In fact, it won’t offend me in the slightest if you move on and come back tomorrow. For those of you who do stay, let’s get a little crazy together, because there are some pretty awesome things to think about.
You see, because of the way we talk, sometimes I feel like none of us exist.
We clump our entire lives into time periods. We use words like “yesterday”, “today”, and “tomorrow” to do it. We talk about “next month” or “next year”. We love to discuss the painful “yesterdays” of our lives. We dwell on what was and wasn’t. We talk about what we wish could be. It is very rare to find somebody who doesn’t do this. Somebody who doesn’t constantly combine all of life into past, present, and future.
We get frustrated when bedtime comes and we realize that our kids have been neglected all day. We promise ourselves that tomorrow we’ll do better. Tomorrow we’ll do something fun. Tomorrow we will not end the day feeling this way.
We watch our houses fill with clutter, discouraged as they pass the point of no return, knowing that our molehills have officially turned into mountains. We vow that tomorrow, or this weekend, or next week we are going to dive in and make our home sparkle brighter than a vampire in the sunlight.
We work to perfect our nasty tempers. We try to be more kind. We try to be more loving. Despite trying, we lose our cool, and say something awful to someone we love. So, we vow yet again that tomorrow we will start over. Tomorrow we will be perfect in it. Tomorrow anger won’t be an issue for us.
With our diets (which I am very much against), we are frustrated with ourselves for every choice that led to those extra pounds on our hips and bellies. We feel discouraged at the effort it’s going to take to rid ourselves of the excess. We make a plan for the health we will start to afford ourselves tomorrow.
We believe that our addictions of yesterday will be our struggles tomorrow. And sure enough, they usually are.
We play the part of the victim in our failed relationships. We vow that somewhere there is somebody who will treat us right. Who will love us. Who will accept us for who we are. And, by damn, someday we’ll find them. We hope it will be tomorrow.
We didn’t exercise like we’d hoped. The events of life got in our way today, so we declare to ourselves that tomorrow we will not fail. Then, as it always does, tomorrow becomes today, and we find ourselves making further promises of improvement. Our statements and timelines turn from tomorrow, into next week, into next month, and then the holidays hit, at which point it turns into next year. Next year comes and we are more determined than ever. We are also fatter than ever.
Improvement is always on the schedule for tomorrow. Change is always taking place some time in the future. It’s human nature.
I’m going to say something that will certainly be disputed by some. I am going to say something that may seem absolutely ridiculous or impossible. Bear with me for a moment, and I promise I’ll tie this all together somehow. Here goes…
There is no such thing as the past. It doesn’t exist. It happened, but it doesn’t actually exist anymore.
There is also no such thing as the future. It doesn’t exist.
The only thing that will ever exist, and I mean ever, is now.
Think about it. What is “the past”? What is yesterday? Many of you will answer that everything we see right now is due to the events of the past. Everything we are, is because of what has happened to us five minutes ago, five days ago, five years ago, or five decades ago. I can see why we would think that.
I also think there could never be a more self-damaging and self-limiting way to think.
I am me. Right now. Period. You are you. Right now. Period.
Everything we think we know, everything we think we see, everything we believe we feel, taste, smell, or hear, everything we “remember” (our pasts), everything we want to happen (our futures), everything that has ever existed or will ever exist, only exists right now. All of these things are nothing more than electric signals being passed through our brains and bodies, right now. It is all energy flowing through us right now. “The past” exists only in our minds. We are the ones who bring it into reality. We are the ones who bring it into the present. We are the ones who make it “real”.
Energy does not care about the past. Energy does not care about the future. Energy simply is.
Every moment of every day, we decide what to make that energy inside of us do. We decide what we want it to make us think. We decide which cells in the brain it should hit, thus deciding what past events or future hopes and dreams we would like to have enter our thoughts.
Allow me to demonstrate. Right now, think about a yellow rubber duck.
Now think about that same rubber duck, only this time make it blue.
Now striped like a rainbow.
Now, another color, any color.
It wasn’t very difficult, was it? You see, we do indeed choose our thoughts. We choose our realities. We choose the images in those thoughts. And, usually, we choose to let certain memory cells in our brains dictate what our thoughts should be.
Had I simply said “think about a rubber duck”, most of you would have thought of a yellow rubber duck on your own. Some of you would have thought about another color, dictated by your memory of what rubber ducks have always been to you.
Had I said “think about a black rubber duck”, a black rubber duck would have been your first thought. There would have been no need to think of a yellow rubber duck first because changing things in our minds is effortless when what we’re changing doesn’t really matter to us.
Had your father scolded you as a child for drawing a picture of a black rubber duck, and told you that rubber ducks are never black, and made you feel horrible for believing that rubber ducks could be black, the thought of your father would have come into your mind instead of the image of a black rubber duck when I asked you to think of it. Immediately, your thought would be to question whether I, the requester, was a moral person. Whether I was wrong. Whether I was spreading wrong. It would have made you question whether or not you should keep reading. It would have made you question whether or not you could read anything I were to write in the future.
And why? It’s simple. Your “past” dictated to you what you should feel “now”. We often don’t stop to question if whatever thought we just thought was valid. Whether it was something we want defining our actions right now. Does it really matter if a rubber duck is black? Does it really matter if it is yellow, green, purple, or orange?
There is always something in our “pasts” that dictates everything we believe and feel.
Something in our “past” makes us believe that we can’t have a BMI over 24.99 and still be worth something.
Something in our “past” makes us believe that a dirty house makes us not worthy of visitors in our homes.
Something in our “past” speaks to us, haunts us, and forces us to think and do things we probably otherwise wouldn’t have thought or done. All the time. Every single day.
Every emotion we have is almost always controlled by our “past”. Do we laugh and not laugh about certain things? Yes, because something in our “past” has told us it’s okay or not okay. Do we get angry about certain things? Yes, because something from our “past” is driving us to ire. Do we simply not care about certain things? Absolutely, because nothing from our “past” is demanding us to put importance on whatever it is we don’t care about.
Why do we let the “past” have its way with us? Don’t we get it? The past doesn’t exist. Everything we think is the past, is nothing more than a thought right now. Energy happening, right now.
This is to our ultimate and incredible benefit because it means that we are in control of things. We are behind the reins.
On Saturday I got into a debate with my baby sister (she’s 20) about what year my family moved to their current city of residence. She insisted it was 1991. I knew, with everything inside of me, that it was the year preceding. I went as far as to joke that maybe we should all believe the kid who was ten years old when it happened instead of the baby that couldn’t walk or talk yet.
She held her ground though, and pointed out some indisputable evidence that she was not mistaken. Her math was correct. It was impossible for me to be right. My family did move there in 1991. I have told people differently for almost 20 years. Yet, what I told them was reality to me. It was truth. It was “my past”, and I assumed it always would be.
And in one instant, that yellow rubber duck turned black for me. In less than a moment, the energy in my mind changed its course and “my past” was something completely different. But the past didn’t change. The energy in mind simply presented itself to me differently.
I know that was a long exploration (and personal theory) of what the past, and reality, is and isn’t, but I feel that if you can wrap your brain around the fact that “the past” might not really exist, then you can also wrap your brain around the fact that “time” might not really exist. And if time doesn’t really exist, you have only one thing. The energy happening right now.
But what does all this rambling have to do with anything? What does it have to do with being a better mother, father, lover, friend, and person? The answer is… everything.
Ask yourself something… “What if?”
Think of the last thing you did that you felt was wrong or not good enough. Now, let’s pretend that it never happened. When we get to the point in any situation at which we base our goal for tomorrow on the problems of the past, let’s force ourselves to act as if the problems leading up to it never happened. It doesn’t matter if it was five seconds ago or five days ago. We will believe that they are gone. We will believe that they don’t exist.
What if we didn’t botch it as parents today (even though we did), and the only thing that happens is right now we go start a pillow fight with our kids? What if right now, feathers start flying everywhere? What if right now, our kids laugh as they lunge through the air with flailing weapons of fluff?
What if we didn’t let our house get out of control (even though we did), and the only thing that happens is right now we grab a trash sack and go for the new speed record as we pick up some of the garbage in just one room? What if right now, we make that small amount of trash just disappear?
What if we’d never gotten angry (even though we had)? What if we’d never had to worry about our tempers? What if the only thing that happens is right now we say something kind? What if right now we say something beautiful?
What if we’d never felt fat (even though we had)? What if we’d never felt ashamed? What if we’d never overeaten? What if we’d never seen the scale say a number higher than we’d like? What if right now the only thing that happens is, we simply don’t eat another handful junk food? What if right now, we order a salad instead of a cheeseburger?
What if we’d never had an addiction to sex? What if we’d never been addicted to tobacco, drugs, or alcohol? What if food had never enslaved us? What if our so called addictions never existed? What if the only thing that happens is right now, we grab a newspaper instead of a Penthouse? What if right now, we order chocolate milk instead of a Gin and Tonic? What if right now, we turn and walk toward the laundry room instead of the kitchen?
What if we’d never had a lover hurt us (even though they had)? What if we had never been betrayed? What if we’d never felt ugly or worthless to the one we loved the most? What if, right now, the only thing that happens is we look at ourselves in the mirror and declare that we are insanely sexy?
What if we didn’t miss our workout (even though we did)? What if we hadn’t had a lack of motivation? What if we hadn’t botched our routine? What if right now the only thing that happens is, we stand up and do ten jumping jacks just because moving our bodies feels good?
What if we weren’t just laid off at work?
What if we’d never had an eating disorder?
What if we’d never been abused as a child?
What if we’d never stolen, lied, cheated, or threatened others?
What if we’d never had that affair? What if we’d never said those horrible things? What if we’d never ran away, sabotaged ourselves, or wanted to kill ourselves?
How would we act right now, if the past never happened?
For some reason we have a very hard time letting go of our thoughts of the past. We haunt ourselves with a stream of negativity that took place some time before now. I did cheat. I did let the house go to crap. I did ignore the kids today. I did fail at something.
I’m here to tell you an amazing truth. Whatever that something is, it doesn’t matter. Whatever it is, it is something that no longer exists. Literally. Whether it was a millisecond ago or a century ago, the universe has officially left it behind.
And so should you.
Whether or not time actually exists has been debated by the greatest minds of all time. It doesn’t really matter if it does or not, you should choose to believe that it doesn’t. Let me explain why.
Looking at the clock or the calendar on the wall has become the center of our lives. We are in the habit of looking at those digits and shifting our entire thinking around them. We attach a “time” to every past event in our lives in order to make it real.
Well, five minutes ago I did lose control and scream at Johnny. It happened. Five minutes ago! The proof is there, forever attached to a specific time in the past.
I did battle an eating disorder for six years. It happened. From 1999 to 2005. The proof is there, forever attached to specific years in the past.
I did give in to my addiction. This morning at 10:09. It happened. Only hours ago, it happened. The proof is there, forever attached to another specific time in the past.
We also attach a “time” to every future event that we’d like to see happen.
I want to be done with this project by the end of the week. I want to be at this place in my career within two years. Next month I am going to be perfect in my gym attendance.
We attach “time” to everything. Including everything we’ve worked so hard to achieve or overcome.
I have been sober for five years now. I have not cheated on my diet in at least ten days. I have kept up with the laundry for the last six weeks.
We must stop attaching time to everything. As long as we do, we’ll never be who we want to be, we’ll never move past the pain of yesterday, and we’ll never find the thrill of living for ourselves right now.
We can’t get rid of clocks, we can’t get rid of calendars. What we can do, is change that yellow duck to a black one in our minds, even when it goes against something powerful from our past.
Every time we look at the clock, we must learn to feel a sense of urgency. We must learn to realize that “now” is happening and will very soon be gone. We must look at the digits on the display and be overcome with an urge to do something before those digits change. Before “now” slips through our fingers. We must look at the ink on the calendar and see an immediate opportunity to do something wonderful, incredible, or beautiful.
It’s that simple. We need to change our thinking from “when the number changes” to “before the number changes”.
We need to stop looking at those numbers and days in our minds, and attaching our past events to them.
We need to simply be whatever we should be, right now.
If we stop trying to cram “the big picture” into numbers on calendars and digits on clocks, everything that is important will get done. We will be what we want to be. We will have everything we want to have. Why?
Because “now” isn’t very long at all. “Now” doesn’t afford us the “time” it takes to think about “the past”. Now doesn’t afford us much time to do anything except small and significant things. Small and significant things are the only way any great thing is ever accomplished. “Now” is beautiful. “Now” is incredible. I promise you. Believing only in what’s “now” gives you no other option than an astonishing and wonderful future.
You will likely think to yourself, I cannot forget the past. Don’t worry. You don’t need to learn how to do that. You’ll never need to learn how to do that. It will happen naturally. As you learn to look at “time” and see only “now”, the past will disappear completely. Once that past disappears, it can no longer define you. It can no longer keep you from drawing pictures of black ducks, if that’s what you wish to draw.
And once your past no longer has the power to define you, your future is, quite literally, yours for the taking. Every single beautiful thing you could possibly want or imagine will be yours.
Which may cause you to ask yourself, what about the beautiful things of the past? What about the incredible, miraculous, kind, loving, wonderful events that have already happened? Guess what… they don’t exist either. They are also just flashes of electricity happening now. Hold onto them, but learn not to lean on them. Use them as a foundation for what you want “now” to be, and nothing more. Use them as navigational beacons. And, as you learn to live “now”, you’ll find yourself using those beacons less and less. You’ll find yourself constantly lost in the beauty of “now”. You’ll discover that the most fantastic things in life are never in the past, they are always right now. Always.
The past doesn’t exist. Figure that out as quickly as you can, then meet me here tomorrow.
Right now, do me a favor and nibble off a piece of this concept with me. Think of the most discouraging thing that you are currently carrying or the biggest project you can’t seem to tackle. Forget about how it happened, forget about how you got there, just look at the clock, and before that number changes, do one little thing to make it better. After you do, enjoy your moment of victory, and then do it again. In less than the time it takes you to blink, the past will burden you no more.
Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing
PS, I’m also curious. What are the biggest voices and experiences from your past that have stopped you from doing or thinking amazing things? Please share.
What are you going to do “now”? Me, I’m going to crank up some music and dance. Why? Because dancing is my black duck. I’ll explain that in tomorrow’s post.