Imagination – it’s useful but can it predict the future?

I will never forget 15th October 1987.

Michael Fish, the BBC weather man, said:

“Earlier on today, apparently, a woman rang the BBC and said she heard there was a hurricane on the way… well, if you’re watching, don’t worry, there isn’t!”

I left my house the following morning to go to work and whilst driving down the road I saw a tree down and thought, “Wow, that must have been a strong wind last night!”

Then a few hundred yards further on I turned the corner and was greeted with the most extraordinary scene. Hundreds of trees down. Cars smashed up. Houses with roofs torn right off.

Here we are again, decades later, and amid another extraordinary situation.

Yet something has not changed.

Despite technology, huge amounts of data, and some of the brightest minds in their fields, we are still not able to predict the future with any certainty. The variation in predictions of the virus and its effects have been enormous.

This is not a criticism of people who are undoubtedly doing their best, it is simply an observation.

Our gift as humans is that we have this extraordinary ability to imagine the future.

This can be an intelligent thing to do. It can help us anticipate, prepare, and get through situations better.

Yet as soon as we begin to add uncertainty into the mix, we can end up scaring the living daylights out of ourselves.

Why does this happen?

What the mind will do when we feel uncertain and insecure is create thoughts about a future that we do not want to experience. Such as catching the virus, having no money, or losing everything.

Thoughts can and do create very powerful emotional experiences and this is why we forget that we are experiencing thought and instead it seems that our circumstances are directly responsible.

But do circumstances directly cause feelings? Is this even possible?

Surveys have shown that for many people, public speaking is more frightening to them than death. Jerry Seinfeld joked that people would rather be in the casket than delivering the eulogy!

But it is also true that many of those people taking part in these surveys have never spoken in public. So, what they are responding to is their thinking about speaking in public.

They really do not know how they would respond in a real public speaking situation. For all they know they could be amazing. I have seen this happen… people who have got up for the first time in front of an audience and were brilliant!

This goes for everything else in life too.

How many times have you allowed your imagination to run wild with uncertainty and felt terrible as a result?

We can worry about money, work, relationships, health, the state of the country and all manner of things. When we try to predict the future, we will often pick the worst-case scenario and use this to make decisions.

You do not have to do this.

When we see the nature of thought and how it is creating our moment to moment experience of life it brings us back into the present.

When you are ‘in the moment’, rather being than lost in a load of erroneous thinking, you are well equipped to make wise, intelligent decisions.

You can be present to what is and not what might be.

The future is uncertain. How can it be anything but?

Yet rather than this being something to fear, by understanding the true nature of the system we are part of, we can navigate through life with ease, intelligence and, for the most part, enjoyably.

Why I stopped meditating

‘We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

I remember getting curious about meditation, probably twenty years ago or maybe even longer. Reading the local newspaper one day I saw that there was going to be a local talk on Transcendental Meditation (TM) and so I went along with a friend.

I was inspired by what I heard and in 2001 was taught TM by Jonathan Hinde. From then on, I meditated, as you do with TM, twice a day, every day.

The purpose of meditation is to experience the meditative state. To allow thought to drop away and to experience a more silent, peaceful state of consciousness. There is extensive scientific and credible research on the many benefits of TM.

It certainly helped me.

For example, about six months after I began to meditate, I decided to sell my financial business and become a coach. I had been unhappy and dissatisfied for a while and yet it wasn’t until I got clearer in my mind that I decided a change in course. I attributed my decision to the increased clarity of mind I got through meditation.

I was very committed to my twice a day practice and I was utterly convinced that I would continue it for the rest of my life. There were times when my meditations were so deep that I got a truly extraordinary feeling of presence, connection and peace.

And there were also plenty of times my mind was so busy it felt like I got nothing, but Jonathan said that the regularity was the key.

In 2012 I attended a three-day seminar being given by Dr. Dicken Bettinger on the Three Principles. Dicken has a wonderful presence and way of talking and on that first morning, I had an incredibly powerful insight into the nature of being present.

I cannot convey the feeling I got with words. All I can say is that I realised that being present is a wonderful feeling and has nothing whatsoever to do with time. That feeling I got lasted for weeks and weeks. It was like one long, very deep meditation.

When I got back after those three days, I stopped the practice of meditating. There was no thought about stopping. It was not a decision I had to make, it just didn’t seem to make sense to do it anymore. I have even tried to go back to it a few times and even though I do very occasionally meditate I have not gone back to it on a regular basis.

What I have seen is this. The wonderful feeling of presence is what we all have when our personal, habitual thinking drops away. Every single one of us has the potential to drop thinking so that we are left with a quiet peaceful mind. Even when our thinking is at its very worst, we are only ever a thought away from complete inner peace and harmony.

I realised that I didn’t need to follow a practice to experience a quiet mind. This is not to say I have a quiet mind all the time, because I don’t, but I now see that a quiet mind is a result of not doing rather than doing. The less attention I pay to my personal thinking – thoughts like worry, tension or simply over-thinking – the quicker I return to the present.

The understanding of what is creating our state of mind, moment by moment, is all we need to see. The understanding, rather than a practice, does the work for us.