A Better Life

August 22nd, 2007 by Steve Pavlina

Thoughts can only be formed in the present moment.  And thoughts can only exert effects in the present moment.  If you can grasp these two concepts, you’ll be able to discard some forms of delusional thinking and craft much more effective intentions.

Here’s an example to help clarify:  Suppose you like the idea of tithing 10% of your income to worthy causes.  But your finances are too tight for you to feel comfortable tithing right now.  However, you tell yourself that you intend to start tithing once you experience a greater state of abundance.  So you’re acknowledging the reality of your present situation while holding a positive intention for the future.  This seems reasonable, doesn’t it?

In actuality, however, this type of thinking is self-defeating.

Consider the thoughts/intentions that are being put forth:

  1. The intention to tithe (future).
  2. The intention to experience limited finances (present).
  3. The intention not to tithe (present).
  4. The intention to experience abundance (future).

Now collapse all of these intentions to the present, since other times are merely illusion.  This yields the following:

  1. The intention to tithe (present).
  2. The intention to experience limited finances (present).
  3. The intention not to tithe (present).
  4. The intention to experience abundance (present).

Is this a congruent set of intentions?  Obviously it’s in conflict because 1 cancels 3, and 2 cancels 4.

Unfortunately, this is how most people go about forming and holding intentions.  No wonder their intentions fail to manifest.  If you hold intentions like the ones above, you can invest tons of energy and have very little to show for it.

Intending the present

So what’s the solution?  The solution requires that if you want to hold an intention for your future, you must in fact hold that intention for your present.  The focal point of your positive expectations must be now – not later… or tomorrow… or someday.

So how do you hold an intention for a future situation that is supposedly better/different than your present reality?  How do you acknowledge the reality of now and intend a future that is better than now?  The most accurate answer is that you don’t.  It isn’t possible because the future is only an illusion.  However, there’s a way around that.

Creative observation

What you do is apply the principle of Creative Observation.  Forget about past and future, and focus entirely on the present.  But give your present a velocity instead of seeing it as a fixed point.  Your present is not a single frame snapshot – it’s an animation.  Whenever you hold an intention, you’re aiming to alter that animation.

Let’s return to the tithing example.  If you recognize the present as the only reality, then your new intentions will look something like this:

  1. The intention that your tithes are continually increasing (present).
  2. The intention that your experience of abundance is continually increasing (present).

So instead of stressing the difference between point A (your present reality) and point B (your intended future), you’re merging the two points.

For my fellow math nerds, we can say that our intentions should focus on the slope of the line segment between A and B rather than the distance between A and B.  Point B is technically imaginary (not in the sense of the mathematical concept of imaginary numbers but simply because it’s a projection into a future that doesn’t actually exist), but point A and the slope at point A both exist in the present moment.  So we can effectively hold the intention of B without succumbing to delusional thinking by focusing on the slope at A instead.

This may seem like a minor distinction (or even a pointless one), but it’s pretty important in practice.  If you want your intention to manifest, you must stop reinforcing its absence.  But at the same time, you cannot escape the necessity of observing your present moment.  So by all means continue to observe, but observe with the intention of continuous change in the direction of your desires.  Intend your reality into motion.

For example, if you want to become a more positive thinker, then imagine yourself as thinking more and more positively – right now in this very moment.  Don’t worry about tomorrow or next week.  Stay centered in the moment.

One day at a time

The “one day at a time” concept is consistent with this model, since “one day at a time” is essentially a mantra to bring your attention back to the present.  Instead of worrying about a long-term goal that may seem daunting, you focus on present-moment improvement.  This is often applied in overcoming addictions because every moment that passes without succumbing to your addiction is a step in the right direction.

Whenever you observe reality, observe it changing in the direction of your desires.  See your present reality as a canvas that paints an ever more beautiful picture.  Your awareness of that beauty is constantly increasing.  Life is getting better and better.

The nice thing about this model is that you can always apply it, even in seemingly negative circumstances.  You can always intend improvement.  You can always focus on hope.

If your experience of reality is only a 1 on a scale of 1-10, don’t intend a 10, an 8, or even a 2.  Intend the velocity of that rating.  Create the present-moment improvement.  No matter how displeased you are with your current reality, you can always pause for a moment to intend improvement here and now.

As you go through your day, pause and intend improvement whenever the thought occurs to you.  For example:

  1. Your financial abundance is increasing.
  2. People are being nicer to you.
  3. You’re providing more value to others.
  4. You’re feeling more energetic, alert, and happy.
  5. You’re enjoying your life more.
  6. You’re thinking more positively.
  7. You’re feeling more relaxed.
  8. You’re getting stronger.
  9. The universe is conspiring to bring you more of what you want.

The amazing power of momentum

As I explained in Podcast #1, I began my path of conscious growth many years ago while sitting in a jail cell.  I would have rated my life situation no higher than a 2 at the time.  But in that cell, I recognized the power of positive momentum.  I could still imagine that things were getting better.

Shortly after I had that thought, while still in my cell, a change of clothing was delivered by the guards, swapping one set of orange garb for another.  My cellmate, a teenager like me, picked up his new clothes and began unfolding them.  He suddenly stopped and held up one of the socks he received.  It was only an inch long!  It looked like a yarmulke for a toe.  Even though we’d barely said two words to each other before then, in that moment we both burst out laughing.  I’m sure it was one of those “you had to be there” moments, but it gave us a much needed release of tension.  That single moment of silliness against the backdrop of a seemingly dreadful situation helped redirect my thoughts in a more positive and constructive direction.

Even as setbacks occur, do your best to keep refocusing your thoughts toward the expectation that your life is getting better.  Not worse.  Not the same.  Better.  If that’s still too difficult, then have a good laugh at how truly pathetic your life has become.  Now and then we all get dealt a toe yarmulke, and acknowledging and laughing at it can move us one step closer to a full sock.


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