It is so natural to think and imagine that tomorrow will be better than today. Aren’t we all planning for something or thinking of something that is going to happen sometime in the future? Maybe we are looking forward to a vacation. Maybe we are looking forward to getting married or having children. Maybe we are looking forward to a promotion in our job. On a daily scale, we look forward to the party at night or the meeting in the afternoon or even the cricket match on television.
Looking forward to a pleasant event causes anticipation of joy and excitement. Similarly, looking forward to an unpleasant event causes anxiety or fear. Have you even watched the process of looking forward to? Doesn’t it involve a lot of imagination born out of memory of past experiences or what information you have heard and gathered?
For instance, if you are looking forward to a vacation to a place you have never been to, do you not imagine what you will do or what you expect to find there based on the stories and experiences related by others who have been to that place before? Do you not imagine how happy you are going to be there or what experiences you are going to have there?
But what happens in reality? You might not have the exact same experiences when you visit that place? Many things might not be as you imagined they would be. That leads to frustration and anger. You blame those people who recommended that place to you. Even if you find most things as you imagined, you are unable to enjoy completely because the mind is filled with ideas about the place and is constantly comparing your actual experience with your imaginations.
To take another example, you might be looking forward to your exam results. You remember what other people commented on your results the last time and you start imagining what people’s reactions will be if you get poor results or better results than last time. All this imagination causes anxiety to build up.
Is it possible not to look forward to anything? Some people might say that it will make for a dull life where there is no hope and no future. But look at it in another way. What happens when you are not lost in the thoughts of what is going to happen tomorrow? Are you not fully in the present?
The present moment is all there is. Imagination prevents your direct contact with the present moment. That is the reason why you do not experience anything even during the experience because the mind is busy in imaginations, comparisons, anger and frustrations.
Things are changing so rapidly that to experience the present moment requires your complete attention and energy but when energy is sapped in imagination about what is going to happen, one misses the moment and its beauty.
Therefore, do not look forward to anything – near or far, pleasant or unpleasant. When you are able to do this and remain in the moment, you will discover something totally unexpected. And it is the totally unexpected which has the quality of genuine happiness.