As I drove to work the other day, I dreamed of my future.
I should have been paying closer attention to the road. When I got to work I realized I couldn’t remember anything about the drive. Oops!
I have always been a guy who ruminates about the past and frets over the future. It sometimes takes over my mind, robbing me of joy and peace. So I’ve learned some techniques around focusing on my breathing and letting thoughts and feelings pass through my mind without dwelling on them. It’s basic mindfulness. Maybe you do this, too; it’s become pretty popular in the last 20 years or so.
My favorite time to practice mindfulness is when I have a camera in my hands. I do break the rule about not judging thoughts and feelings, as I need that judgment to compose a pleasing photo. But everything else about photography is quiet and meditative for me.
This practice really helps me keep calm and not make mountains out of molehills. The benefits of mindfulness are clear for all. It can reduce anxiety and depression. It can help manage anger. It can even help people recover from addiction.
But a backlash appears to have started against mindfulness. Some now claim practicing mindfulness reduces our ability to properly judge reality, can create false memories and blunt our ability to latch onto positive thoughts, and for people with trauma histories it can even bring back painful memories and spur panic attacks.
I don’t think I’ve experienced any of this harm. I’ve certainly not panicked while practicing!
But aren’t there some useful things to do with this present moment that might not involve being present in this moment? Such as dreaming about the future? Planning for good things to come? Looking forward to what might be? I’ve surely been doing a lot of that as I anticipate my future with my new wife. We are, after all, getting married tomorrow!
Dreaming is a fine thing to do in this present moment. Just not while you’re driving.