Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A cat's view of time

Another section in Mo Gawdat's book Solve for Happy that struck a chord with me was the chapter about time.  Perhaps I should mention at this point that I have 2 cats.  Living with these 2 cats I certainly appreciate that animals have no sense of time - or rather no sense of "the right time".  When they feel hungry they go and eat.  When they feel tired they sleep.  I've often said that I'd like to come back to life as a cat one day!

There's a really interesting bit in the book that I've just read about emotions - most of your thoughts have very little to do with the present time - they are anchored in the past or are ones we are projecting into the future.  And that's especially true of negative thoughts.  Anger, annoyance, guilt, feelings of disappointment and hurt - all these are linked to events that have already happened.  Nothing I can do now will change that.  That time is gone forever and now only exists in memories.  Perhaps I need to stop dwelling on what cannot be changed.

The same is true of the future.  Thinking about what could be in store can cause all sorts of anxiety: for example just this morning the news appeared to show that the USA is on the brink of nuclear war with North Korea. Thinking about the future can cause stress and tension, anxiety, worry and pessimism.  And again, nothing I can do can have any impact at all on the future.  There are infinite possibilities of things that can happen - and I'm focusing on just one or two of these and letting them worry me.

Positive emotions tend to occur in the here and now.  For example as you can see in the photo I'm sitting out on my balcony on a day off from school (it's Indian Independence day today - a public holiday).  It's a little cloudy and there's a light breeze so it's quite cool out here and I'm feeling calm and relaxed.  I'm satisfied with today, even though the only thing I have planned is a walk around Joggers' Park later, because this is also part of my goal to get fit and keeping healthy.  And I'm really happy that I have found the time to blog which always makes me feel good.

According to Mo this is the important thing:  when we're focused on the past or the future then we're living in our thoughts and not in reality - and we know that our past and future thoughts are often quite negative ones.  When we are living in our heads in the past and the future then we're not experiencing the present.  In fact we're not even laying down the present that will become a past memory in the future.  What a waste!  So here is one part of Mo's equation - maybe the most important part (I don't know because I'm only half way through the book): use time, don't let it use you.  If you want to be happy, live in the here and now.

So here is another analogy.  You're on a train and it will stop at 75 stations, each of which has a lot to experience.  You have the capacity to press a button whenever you want that will move you to the next station.  You can press it 75 times to get to the end, or you can get out at each station and experience what's there on the journey.  The ride is all you have - at the end there is no destination, only death.  What do you choose to do?  Will you spend your time thinking about getting to the end, will you spend your time regretting all the stations that have already passed, or will you get out and enjoy every station and all that it offers as it comes along?

So right now I'm sitting on my balcony and enjoying my cats, my little family here in India.  And because I get so much joy from them I'm going to post another photo!

OK, time for a little more mindfulness .....

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