Are we there yet?
Relax, you've arrived.
We spend so much of our time trying to get somewhere.
Part of this comes from our biological nature. To survive, animals -- including us -- have to be goal-directed, leaning into the future.
It's certainly healthy to pursue wholesome aims, like paying the rent on time, raising children well, healing old pain, or improving education.
But it's also important to see how this focus on the future -- on endless striving, on getting the next task done, on climbing the next mountain -- can get confused and stressful.
- Overestimates both the pleasure of future gains and the pain of future losses. (This evolved to motivate our ancient ancestors to chase carrots hard and really dodge sticks.)
Besides being confused and confusing, striving is stressful. You've got to fire up, activating the fight-or-flight sympathetic nervous system and its related stress hormones. There's a sense of pressure, of worry about a future that's inherently uncertain, of entrapment on a neverending treadmill. There's a lack of soothing and balance that would come from recognizing the truth of things:
You've actually already arrived.
Recognize the simple fact that you got here, in this place, and now, in this moment. It may not be perfect. But think of the many things you have certainly done to come here. At a minimum, you survived high school! You've taken many steps, solved many problems, put many tasks and challenges behind you.
The word, "arrive," comes from roots that mean "to reach the shore." Once you land, of course, life is not over, since the next moment will be a new arrival. But sinking into the sense of having arrived, of having crossed the finish line of this moment, is calming, happy, and deserved. And knowing you've arrived, you now are more able to turn your attention toward being of true service to others.
To deepen the sense of arrival, help yourself relax into this moment. From time to time, you could softly say in your mind: arriving... arrived... arriving...
Draw on your body to strengthen this experience. Let each breath land in your awareness: arriving... arrived... arriving... Be aware of the bite landing in the mouth, the meal consumed, the body fed. As you walk, notice that, with each step, you have reached another place. Know that your hand has reached a cup, that the eye has received a sunset, that the smile of a friend has landed in your heart.
Consider old longings, old drives, that truly may be fulfilled, at least to a reasonable extent. (And if not fulfilled, maybe it's time to let something go and move on.) Can you lighten up about these? Or can you accept that you have arrived at a place this moment that contains unfulfilled goals and unmet needs? It's still an arrival. Plus it's a "shore" that probably many good things about it no matter what's still undone?.
In the deepest sense, reflect on the fact that each moment arrives complete in itself. Each wave lands on the shore of Now complete in its own right.
Arriving... arrived... arriving...
Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a psychologist, Senior Fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, and New York Times best-selling author. His books are available in 26 languages and include Hardwiring Happiness, Buddha's Brain, Just One Thing, and Mother Nurture. He edits the Wise Brain Bulletin and has numerous audio programs. A summa cum laude graduate of UCLA and founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom, he's been an invited speaker at NASA, Oxford, Stanford, Harvard, and other major universities, and taught in meditation centers worldwide.
Dr. Hanson has been a trustee of Saybrook University and served on the board of Spirit Rock Meditation Center. His work has been featured on the BBC, CBS, and NPR, and he offers the free Just One Thing newsletter with over 115,000 subscribers, plus the online Foundations of Well-Being program in positive neuroplasticity that anyone with financial need can do for free.