No Past, No Future, No Problem

“When you say to someone ‘you’re history’ it doesn’t mean that you’re a part of it; it means that you’re obliterated. That’s what history means.”
— Unknown

I think my Change the Meaning of the Past post (on January 8th, 2012) was too brief & too fast. I got a few comments from readers that it was hard to catch all that Alan Watts was saying & they also wanted more to read. Well, I can’t slow Alan down & I can’t transcribe the whole video, but I can write a bit more about the topic & post an additional video for you.

The Alan Watts video that I embedded in this post gives a bit more detail & has good pacing. It’s quite relaxed & fun to watch (especially Alan’s printed pants).

To me, the bottom line of what Alan Watts is saying is: THE PAST IS THE RESULT OF THE PRESENT. I could probably talk about that sentence for an hour. Actually, I know I easily could. But for now, I want to take it in another direction. (Because you can watch the entire 6 part video on Alan’s view that I embedded above, & get almost an hour of talk about that sentence from him.)

I want to share a different take on: being, living in the present, & staying out of past/future based thinking.

To me, suffering is only possible if your mind is in the past or future. If you are truly in the present, suffering is not possible.

But someone might say: I am in extreme physical pain from an illness (or physical injury). I am completely present. This pain is happening right now, & I am suffering!

My question for you would be: but are you comparing how you feel right now to a time when you were not in pain? Are you comparing how you feel or how you look, to the past? Are you comparing the predicament you are in right now to a time when you were not in it? Are you adding to this moment thoughts about the future? Thoughts based on fear? Like: what if I never get better? What if this gets worse? What if I am never the same? Why is this happening? What if I die? What if this takes a long time? What if I lose what I have over this? What if I never feel good again? — Also, let me ask you: what is your point of reference for pain & pleasure? Is it not based on the past? So in my opinion, it’s not the pain (illness, injury, or situation) that is making you suffer — it’s you. It’s your thoughts. Thoughts overrun by past & future based thinking.

Try it out for yourself today. Or better yet, try it out for yourself this week. Set aside a piece of paper. Every time you get stressed, or feel uneasy, or feel that unwanted emotions are arising — make a note of it. I want you to write down what what you are feeling & thinking. Go into detail. After that, I want you to write down what is happening in the present. Write down where you are & what is TRULY happening in the present moment. Not what you are thinking is happening, but what is really happening. Just note the facts. Don’t paint a picture of them. Just write down the basic facts without adding meaning to them. At the end of the day, or end of the week. Go back & see if those detailed thoughts & feelings about the situation matched the basic facts of the present moment. And if any of the fears that were noted in the detailed thoughts were as scary, as uncomfortable, or as painful as you thought they would be.

Alan Watts has a quote that ties in nicely to what I was just sharing with you:
[Being free from the past] simply involves a change in your thinking. It involves in other words; your getting rid of the habit of thought whereby you define yourself as the result of what has gone before — and instead, get into the more plausible, and more reasonable habit of thought. In terms of which; you don’t define yourself in terms of what you’ve done before, but in terms of what you’re doing now. And that is liberation from the ridiculous situation of being a dog wagged by its tail.

Just remember: no past, no future, no problem! :) Stay present. See what is happening now as a gift.

[To watch the entire “Time and The More It Changes” video (in 6 parts) from Alan Watts, click here.]

[Photo of the “No Past, No Future” tattoo is from the F*ck Yeah, Tattoos! blog.]


Filed under awareness, great quotes, tv & video, unlearning

5 responses to “No Past, No Future, No Problem

  1. ♥ Dizzy

    If you want my future…

    forget my past (。♥‿♥。)

  2. terry singh

    Holy Cows!
    i haven’t watched the videos yet, but what you are speaking to
    is exactly what i am experiencing; lately i’ve been feeling
    that i wish i would have started on what i am doing now, earlier in my life.
    I gotten a late start, i know i needed all of the experiences that brought me to this juncture.
    your language really hit home, in that i am here now the present fulfilling my purpose, there is no past only that i am in the space of being in purpose.

    thank you for this post.

  3. As strongly as I believe in what you are saying, and as much as I love Alan Watts (which is a lot!) I still don’t think it is easy at all to live completely in the present. Do you? Disconnecting from the past and future requires deprogramming a life time of social conditioning, which means you have to dissolve your ego. And once you dissolve your ego it’s very possible that another one will emerge in it’s place. You have to abandon everything you know and hold, and it will be difficult as others around you still coexist in the future and the past.

    It’s sad, because rarely do people spend more time in the present than they do in the past or future, it is good practice to balance this out and spend ‘more’ time in the present, as you appear to be doing. But living completely and totally in the present during every moment of your life is an amazing feat, and extremely difficult unless you are in an environment which nurtures it, and are under the guidance of an enlightened guru.

    A good practice for remaining present is mantra repetition, or japa, if you haven’t already tried it.

    • Hello, :)
      Yes, you are right, it isn’t easy to stay in the present. But the suffering that comes from focusing on the past or future is much harder.
      Mantra repetition & japa help to keep the mind centered. If someone has a very busy mind, I think it’s a good practice for centering thoughts & relaxing the body. In general, thoughts are powerful. If we keep our mind on sacred sounds or on the name of god, we take that energy on. For me, what keeps me in “the now” is getting in touch with subtleties, (i.e., sounds, sensations, breathing, silence, heartbeat, etc.) or the truth of the moment (e.g., what really matters, or is everlasting/unconditional/absolute) Simply staying aware. Noticing. Just staying present to what is happening in the moment, or what truly matters. :) Everyone does their best. It’s all we can do. Everyday is a practice. Taking things lightly is the way to make it feel easy & effortless.

      • Wise words :) You are very right, the key is awareness; every day is a meditation as long we we can dedicate 100% of our consciousness to the present moment, and not to what we did yesterday or what we might do tomorrow. Whenever I feel myself diverting from the present moment, I mentally repeat my OM MANI PADME HUM’s until the thoughts vanish and, like a car window being wiped in the rain, I can see clearly again. Thanks for the quick reply to my comment! All the best.

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