Reality is the broad term to use when conceptualizing the intersecting awareness between your inner and outer worlds. Reality is an interpretation. It’s the ever-shifting moment of contact you have with the awareness of how your life is unfolding. Internally, your reality includes your thinking, emotions, memories, impulses, needs, and so forth. Externally, your reality involves what you see, hear, what you are driving, what you are sitting on, who you are talking to, and so on. Even though all of these things are always happening in some way or another, the only thing that gives your reality any meaning is where you place your focus.
You are much more in control of your reality than you probably realize.
The mind can be a gnarly place. The thoughts that are generated there are constantly surveying your inner and outer environments for signs of threat. Even when nothing is truly dangerous, it can create thoughts to generate that emotional state anyway. Two places where threat really doesn’t exist are in the past or in the future. But the mind is built to survey these places in the desperate pursuit of what to focus on and how to prevent dissatisfaction. Another way to say this is that the mind is built to create a reality about things that have already happened or haven’t happened yet and feel emotions like worry or shame. Thoughts like, “if only…” or “I’ll be happy when…” are examples of this.
With addictions, this looks like the thinking in anticipation of the next conquest or high. With anxiety, this can look the phone call that hasn’t been returned yet or the paper that hasn’t been written for the class that’s ending next Thursday. These are two examples of how reality is being created around things that are in the future. With guilt, this can look like waking up and wishing you hadn’t done that thing you did last night. With shame, this can look like constantly replaying a conversation in your mind and wondering how that other person heard what you said. Both of these are examples of creating reality around events in the past.
When it comes to being human, this process of looking ahead and behind can be very misleading.
We can get stuck in a world of what has already happened or what might happen in the future. We can mistakenly define ourselves by the story that has already been written and exists only in time gone by and, in doing so, build lives around what doesn’t exist. When we focus on what has already occurred, we mistakenly assume that is accurate information for the future and then make predictions for how negatively the future will be.
However! Since this is a phenomenon of being human, what if you were able to harness it in your favor? What if you intentionally directed your focus to see positive elements of your past? What if you shifted your attention to see all the times you didn’t act out, say something inappropriate, or failed a test? I’m going to guess that, if you did, you would see that the vast majority of your time spent is actually more or less upstanding, moral, and appropriate. If that’s the case, then why can’t you assume that the future will also unfold in this way? If most of your behavior is positive, then why not assume your future behavior will be too? If today you didn’t engage in your addiction, then why not assume that tomorrow you won’t either?
Ultimately, you want to practice letting your focus rest as close as possible to the moment of awareness of now. Not three hours ago, not in a week from now, but right now. Is there any real danger in this moment right now? In this unfolding moment right now – not the one based in the past or future in your mind – is there really any threat?
Reality is all based on perspective.
What you shine your light of attention on gets meaning. Focus on what drives a positive self-image in the present and trust that, since you’ve made it to this moment right now, that means that whatever comes your way in the future doesn’t need to be worried about because the fact is that you will be able to handle it. You always have. Rest in that awareness. This is a delicious path to finding peace in the ever-changing elements of this present moment.
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