We live our lives as though whatever we want might arrive in the very next moment. We are skeptical about it arriving right now but if we could just get to the end of this (whatever “this” happens to be), there is a strong possibility that we might be happy. I have observed this even in periods of meditation: I sit down on my cushion, look at my watch to see the time, and set my internal alarm clock for however long, as though the point of the meditation is to get to the end of that period, rather than to be present, in each moment. It is not to get to the future or to be able to say that I have spent x amount of time on my cushion.
I was once taught, “Don’t work for results” and my initial reaction was, “If you don’t work for results, you won’t get any.” At the time I was helping to renovate a brownstone and, indeed, we never seemed able to finish even one part of the house. I see now that the answer lies in having an end in mind, but not focusing on it to the exclusion of the activity itself. For instance, when I get on the subway, I make sure to get on the right train and get off at the appropriate stop, but I don’t focus on where and when I will leave the train while I am sitting there. It is certainly at the back of my mind, but it doesn’t receive ninety-nine percent of my attention.
Our reluctance to remain in the present comes from our natural restlessness. We want to find tranquillity and fulfillment, and for some strange reason we believe that we have to go elsewhere to discover it.
From CAUGHT IN THE ACT