“Skillfully relating to the future: Letting go of fear,” talk and summary

Sept. 26, 2017 Group Meditation Part 2 of 2

This discussion happened September 26, 2017 at the Boundless Love Project’s Group Meditation. Before listening to the discussion, we suggest you listen to this guided bare awareness mindfulness meditation which preceded the talk. This discussion has been edited to improve its clarity, content, and for length.

Main Points from the “Skillfully relating to the future: Letting go of fear” talk

• The path of mindfulness is about knowing the truth, living from love, and overcoming our personal suffering.

• When we live from truth, we feel peaceful, calm, and relaxed.

• When we live from delusion, we feel suffering and act in ways that harms ourselves and others.

• Love, peace, compassion, and joy are always with us. They are an intrinsic part of the deepest essence of who we are. However, the felt-experience of these states are more subtle than the emotionally disturbing delusional states such as greed, aversion, self-view, and fixed-view. When delusion is present in the mind or body, it obscures those ever-present states.

Futuring is a delusion where we mistake our negative stories about the future to be more real than the present moment, or where we judge our present moment harshly based on our dreams of the future. Furturing is the source of much fear, anxiety, dread, frustration, sadness, envy, anger, and other disturbing emotional states in the present moment.

• When we mindfully see delusion as delusion, it erodes away that delusion’s power to confuse us, cause emotional disturbances to arise, control us, and act itself out unskillfully through us.

• To prevent futuring, don’t seek your happiness in external situations where it cannot be found. Peace, joy, and calmness are already inside of you, and that’s where you can find them.

• To know when delusion is present and not present in the mind, keep some of your attention always grounded in awareness of the sensations of the body, especially those sensations that are calm, peaceful, and pleasant. If unpleasant sensations arise, know delusion is present, and investigate your thoughts to see which one has arisen.

• To prevent futuring, be clear on the difference between goals held with the delusion of greed, and goals free of the delusion of greed.

When greed is present with goals, the goals themselves may be unskillful, harming to self or others. When greed is present with goals, one seeks their happiness externally, and is willing to sacrifice present-moment peace and joy for the mistakenly-expected “superior joy” of achieving their goal. When greed is present, one is willing to use delusional “the ends justify the means” thinking to justify unskillful behavior now in exchange for achieving their goal. When greed is present, one’s self-worth is tied up in whether they achieve their goals or not. When greed is present, a lot of effort, stress, fear, anxiety, and self-view arises as one works to achieve their goals. When greed is present, setbacks and difficulties are more likely to cause a person to give up, label themselves a failure, and wallow in their misery. When greed is present, one is less likely to achieve their goals, and if the goal is achieved, it may be at a very high price.

When goals are free of greed, the goals come from a place of love, compassion, and service to self and others. When goals are free of greed, every step taken towards the goal is done with peace, joy, ease, and skillfulness. When goals are free of greed, every step taken towards the goal is seen as intrinsically valuable, worthwhile, meaningful, and an act of service and love. When goals are free of greed, one’s self-worth is not affected by whether the goal is ultimately achieved or not. When goals are free of greed, one sees setbacks, difficulties, and other hardships as opportunities for learning and growth, and they continue on with patience and perseverance. When greed is not present, one is more likely to achieve their goals, and if the goal is achieved, it is achieved in a quality manner with while serving all other life in the process.

Your action plan: Be here now

As you continue to work with the slogan, “be here now.” Pay attention and be mindful of the delusion of futuring. Notice when it is happening. Notice its feeling tone. What is its habit pattern? Is that skillful or unskillful? See if there is any greed, aversion, self-view, or fixed-view present? What happens when you see it is operational?

Journal activities

1. Brainstorm why can’t you be happy now? Include both future-based and past-based reasons. Create as long a list as you can. Whenever you get stumped, just ask yourself again: “Why can’t I be happy now?” This question is directed to your ego, so just let your egoic, conceptual mind spew forth answers in a stream-of-consciousness fashion. Remember, these thoughts are not who you are, so don’t take them personally. 

• This activity allows you know some of the egoic delusions that are operating in your mind. If you believe those thoughts, that is the delusion of “fixed-view.” Your belief in them assures you that you will be continually unhappy and unsatisfied. If you are mindful of those thoughts as merely being thoughts, you can see the delusion in them and not be confused by them.

• When believed, the thoughts confuse you into thinking that either the past has more control over you, or that something must or needs to happen before you can be happy. Challenge and test these theories in your life. Are they true? Have you experienced any joy today or this week? Why did that happen? How is that possible if these conditions are not met?

• Review this list and look for how they show up in your life.

2. Reflect on the other ways that the delusion of futuring shows up in your life.

•    Do you get anxious, fearful, and stressed about deadlines?

•    How do you handle “running late” for things?

•    Do you frequently have a sense of whether you are “ahead of” or “behind” schedule? What do these concepts really mean? Are they simply a shorthand for, “now I can feel calm,” and “now I have to stress out,” respectively?

•    What dreams and goals do you have? Do you allow yourself to enjoy the steps you take to reaching those dreams, or will you only be satisfied once they are obtained? How tightly do you cling to needing those dreams to happen in order for you to be happy?