When you get a stomach virus, your mind immediately goes to one of two places.
The first is paranoia. Okay, where did the sickness come from? Maybe the fish from last night? Or that snot nosed toddler at the holiday party who coughed all over me? Is it covid coming to get me?
The second place that our mind goes to is worry. Alright, what does this mean for me? What about my meeting tomorrow? Will I have to spend the next three days in bed?
And yet, neither of these thoughts does us any good. They don’t change the fact that we feel like death right now.
Robinson’s research on addiction shows how our genes carry an evolutionary heritage that leaves us with rumination and worry about what could have been in the past and about what is yet to come. It’s the vigilance that helped our ancestors survive everything from predators to diseases to rival tribes.
But that was eons ago. Today, the threats of attackers aren’t as severe as they were in the caveman days. Which means our rumination, either forward or backward, aren’t especially helpful. We gain nothing from our obsession to dwell on the past or the future.
In fact, virtually all our negatively valanced emotions are not rooted in the present.
Worry, fear, regret, shame, denial, each of these are stuck in either yesterday or tomorrow.
Whereas joy, gratitude, love, compassion, acceptance, surrender, each of these are grounded in right now.
It’s actually quite an elegant litmus test for the usefulness of mind patterns. We ask ourselves, is this thought taking my mind to a plus one, a minus one, or zero?
Not that we shouldn’t prepare for the future and reflect on the past, but when it’s at the expense of losing contact with right now, we suffer.
The good news is, there are some people out there who allow each moment to be what it is. Who believe there is no failure or mistake. And that whatever happens, happens.
Our job is to stay close to them. Because maybe their mindfulness will rub off.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
When was the last time worrying made you feel better?