A Japanese warrior was captured by his enemies and thrown into prison. That night he was unable to sleep because he feared that the next day he would be interrogated, tortured, and executed. Then the words of his Zen master came to him, “Tomorrow is not real. It is an illusion. The only reality is now.” Heeding these words, the warrior became peaceful and fell asleep.
How’s your relationship with time?
Letting Go of the Future
Americans have an interesting relationship with time. We have lots of beautiful things ahead of us.
We start our academic career in preparation for a great academic career in a good school. That prepares us for a great job.
And that great job will allow us to have nice things, two weeks of vacation each year, a nice Christmas, and a good retirement.
There is always something “out there” dangling like a carrot that we’re reaching for. We’re always living for the future.
And often, when that future comes, it’s a bit of a let down. Or it’s way too brief.
So, we create another big payoff moment and stick it out there for us to reach.
While goals are great, they help us steer the boat, focusing exclusively on them can mean we miss out on what’s happening now.
It can also mean that we borrow worry and stress that isn’t here now.
Don’t worry. Be happy.
Keep Calm. Carry On.
Right now I should be in freak out mode. Instead I am the Japanese warrior who is sleeping soundly the night before the execution.
I am days away from leading a spiritual retreat to Asheville, North Carolina, and I have podcasts to do that will post when I am gone.
I also just started a “365 Days of Letting Go” challenge, which means that I have committed to having a article post every day for the next year.
And of course, there is still work, house cleaning, cooking, laundry, and all the every day tasks of living that have to happen. And yet, I’m not freaking out.
Why? Because that’s how wu wei works.
You do what you do with as little effort as possible and somehow it all gets done. And when the dreaded deadline comes, you deal with where you are then.
So maybe the Japanese soldier is tortured and maybe he isn’t. Maybe I will make my deadlines and maybe I won’t. But I don’t let it steal the moment by being in a stressful frenzy before that’s even the reality.
The future really does take care of itself. And it does so beautifully if you prepare today by cultivating fertile soil for the seeds you want to sow, planting those seeds, watering and weeding, and leaving them alone.
If you have healthy habits and diligence and a little luck from Nature, it all works out.
Do your work and let the rest go.
Need help with that? Join my Let It Go Now community and make letting go a lifestyle.