The past is behind you, the future is wholly uncertain, and the only moment you can truly experience joy is right here, right now, writes James de Villiers.
Your emotions do not define you. I’ve really struggled with this idea the past few months.
Because for most of my life, I was taught I have to fight against my negative thoughts. I was told to “think yourself happy”; told your mindset defined your destiny.
And last year November, when my therapist told me instead of fighting my fears, I should just let them be — I couldn’t comprehend how anyone was able to let their “feelings be”.
As I drove away from my therapist five minutes before work, and I felt my chest on fire — anxiety clinging to my chest — I didn’t understand how letting my feelings be would better my life.
Since then I’ve often sat alone in my bed, in my cold two-bedroom apartment, praying and pleading with God to rid me of this feeling. I asked him to give me a moment to just breath, a moment to just be.
A moment of magic where all the fears of this world — all the things that keep me awake at night: the fears that I’d die alone, and the fears that I’d never be loved — all disappear and I could simple experience the happiness of the present.
I wanted more of the moments of when I remembered myself at my happiest: when I was careless and free, and fully present experiencing the adventure as it was happening.
I’ve since learnt that experiencing that moment of magic is a muscle that requires constant stretching.
Eckhart Tolle in his life-changing book “The Power of Now” writes that the strength of our fears lie in that they take us away from the present. The past is behind you, the future is wholly uncertain, and the only moment you can truly experience joy is right here, right now.
This simple lesson has forced me to change the way I live life. In moments where my fears want to run away with me — pulling me from the joy right in front of me — I had to intentionally focus my thoughts on something in my immediate vicinity.
Every morning I now start the day listening to the silence, allowing my mind to go blank. At first, it was difficult with the worries of the day flooding in like an unstoppable storm, but the more I listened the more the silence started to echo and my heart grew calm. And the more I did that, the more I was able to let emotions come and go. And ultimately, the happier I became.
- James is a in-depth writer at News24, Landisa curator, and lives in Johannesburg.