“Remember then: there is only one time that is important–Now! It is the most important time because it is the only time when we have any power.”
— Leo Tolstoy
Do you find yourself looking forward to a particular season of the year? For landscape photographers, autumn’s kaleidoscope of color is pretty hard to beat. As my kids are heading back to school this week, I started thinking about the great photographic opportunities I’d like to pursue this fall. Zion National Park (pictured above) is always high on my list. I’m also committed to capturing more of the autumn color in Utah’s high country this year. And, I scored an online lottery permit to visit “The Wave” (Coyote Buttes, Northern AZ) in October(!).
By nature I’m a very future-oriented kind of guy. I’m really good (gold-medal Olympian good) at setting goals. Not as good at achieving them. My whiteboard at work mocks me daily as the unfinished projects and as-yet unattained goals stare down at me in disapproval. This strong “future bias” has worked its way into my photography, sometimes in unhelpful ways. For example, spending too much time thinking how great my photography will be when I get that dream lens (maybe the sweet Canon 24mm L tilt-shift lens?!), or when I own a $900 Gitzo tripod, or after I’ve purchased all the Guy Tal ebooks on photography, or…. (I could go on for a while).
We’re probably each vulnerable to different forms of the “I’ll be happy when…” trap. Maybe it’s: when I get that raise, or when we get a new house, or when I get my teeth whitened, or after my boss retires, or after I retire. For some, the issue is more one of dwelling unhealthily in the past: revisiting disappointments, second-guessing choices, suffering from the abuses of others. Much of the work done in my business of clinical psychology is about helping people develop a healthier orientation to the past and/or the future.
Recently (in the past year, particularly), I’ve been focusing a lot more on savoring the present moment. I still work hard toward my goals and still let the past inform my current decisions and actions, but being fully present and engaged in this moment has made a big difference. One of the men I admire most in this world, Dieter F. Uchtdorf, explained it this way:
“The happiest people I know are not those who find their golden ticket; they are those who, while in pursuit of worthy goals, discover and treasure the beauty and sweetness of the everyday moments.”
It’s made a big difference practicing this kind of present-moment awareness on a regular basis. Savoring the infectious giggling of my 4-year-old daughter as I tickle her, appreciating that I have a healthy body that can climb mountains with relative ease, watching my wife while she’s not looking and seeing that she’s more beautiful than ever, studying with fascination the veins on a leaf, feeling thankful for air conditioning while my car is stuck in traffic, recognizing that my current camera gear is much better than I deserve…. Even during the inevitable mundane and difficult tasks that are part of life it’s possible to “make room” for the distress or discomfort, “connect” with the moment, and move forward, acting in the present in ways that benefit the future. Someone who has cultivated the habit of making the most of every “now” can look back on a past of great moments lived, and has ensured the best possible future for themselves.
I’m still looking forward to the great photographic opportunities this fall, but as far as life goes, my favorite season is always NOW.
P.S. Resources along these lines I’ve found helpful in the past year:
The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris
Living in the Now by Gina Lake
Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zin
And one more quote for good measure:
“Present-moment living, getting in touch with your ‘now,’ is at the heart of effective living. When you think about it, there really is no other moment you can live. Now is all there is, and the future is just another present moment to live when it arrives. One thing is certain, you cannot live it until it does appear.”
— Wayne Dyer