It is the day before the US election in 2020 but I promise you that this post will be relevant beyond. If you want to practice mindfulness, one of the worst things you can do is engage in “what if” thinking.
Right now, the airwaves are filled with the “what if” scenarios. Steve Kornacki, of MSNBC, has even named his election board “What If.” In fact, all the networks and newspapers are mapping out the myriad possibilities.
The “what if’s” can produce much fear – what if my candidate doesn’t win, what happens if there will be violence, what if the election is contested and goes up to the Supreme Court, what if the loser doesn’t concede or worst yet, what if he doesn’t leave the White House?
These fears can be paralyzing, and seriously people, WE DO NOT KNOW.
I’m not a political expert but I do know human nature. We think that if we can game it out, we can protect ourselves from danger. As we all know from our own experiences, spending energy trying to forecast the future is often wasted. Sometimes our worst fears are never realized, and sometimes things are worse than we ever imagined.
We Cannot Predict The Future
The fact is that the present is the only moment we have control over. We cannot change the past, and honestly, we cannot predict the future, no matter how many scenarios we run.
In mindfulness, the main objective is to learn and practice being present in the NOW. When we are preoccupied with the past, or worried about the future, it severely limits our ability to experience the present moment – the only place we can take action.
Think about a time when you were concerned about something in the future, and as every human does, you gamed out all the possibilities. I am quite sure that what actually came to pass might have been completely different than what you imagined. Actually, when I have done this, I regretted all the time and energy I put into being preoccupied with what might happen. (Is this true for you?)
Learning to be more present is a spiritual practice. When you find yourself in “what if” thinking or rumination about the past, you can bring yourself back to this moment, again and again. With kindness.
I emphasize “with kindness” because it is completely human to want to game out the future. We have survived because of this skill. Scientists call this “negativity bias.”
When you want to reign yourself in, bring yourself back to THIS MOMENT again and again, with love and kindness for yourself.
Some practices for staying present & avoiding “What If” thinking:
- When you feel anxious or fearful: tune in, name your feelings, and breathe into them. More often than not, and although it is counter-intuitive, accepting where you are can often help the feelings dissipate. Deep breaths are also extremely restorative.
- Turn off the news or social media if you find it leads you into too much “what if” thinking. Instead, focus on what you can do in this moment: take a walk, call a friend, cook something…
- Set your timer or use your meditation app to sit in silence. It is an opportunity to tune in to where you are right now. I use the Insight Timer meditation app and have a number of meditations there like this one on Lovingkindness
Most importantly, stay with what you know right now. So many of us have worked hard – phone banked, written postcards, and encouraged others to vote. Keep connected with your own values and rest in confidence and hope.
Most of all, love each other. That’s always the answer.
For a free guide with more ideas for being present, click here for Renew: 12 Ways To Awaken Your Soul