• 52°

SMITH: Nothing happens next. This is it.

“You wander from room to room, searching for the diamond necklace that is already around your neck.”

—Rumi

A few years ago, I made a series of online posts and videos as part of a two-week “wellness” challenge. In those 14 days, I offered free advice on diet, weight loss, stress management, weight training and yoga stretches for specific issues. Every video had more than 2,500 views, a very respectable number for the size of my social following.

This June, I offered a free, online, two-week “meditation invitation” where I led various five-minute mindfulness exercises or breathing practices each day. On average, each meditation was viewed a mere 200 times. In online terms, that is as good as non-existent.

I get it. Weight loss is sexy. Mindfulness isn’t.

I learned at a business conference that the top five “click bait” terms for social media posts are free, money, younger, value and weight loss. If you want people to stop scrolling and read your posts, you should include two of those five terms in the first sentence.

“Free Meditation to Look Younger!” or “Meditate to Lose the Weight!” would have definitely upped my views, but it felt exploitative, manipulative and just wrong.

We place value on how we look on the outside, but are resistant to doing the hard work of being present in our actual lives.

We value how we look over how we choose to be in the world.

We exist in an incessant arrival fantasy, or the idea that we will finally be happy, healthy and whole as soon as we…

— Find the man of our dreams.

— Have a baby.

— Lose 10 pounds.

— Pay off the house.

— Get the degree.

— Get the job.

— Get the promotion.

— Get the vaccine.

We defer our wholeness when it’s available to us right now, like Rumi’s diamond necklace around our throat.

As a society, Americans are some of the most stressed people in the world. We work more hours per week than other countries and are being prescribed anti-anxiety and depression medication in record numbers.

Our overall stress levels have continued to rise slightly each year over the last decade. I can only imagine what those numbers for 2020 will look like.

It’s not entirely our fault. We’re hardwired to worry about the future.

The animal part of our brain is solely concerned with survival and likes to anticipate all the ways things can go wrong in a futile attempt to “be prepared for anything.”

We dress rehearse tragedy and imagine how we will react or respond to every possible outcome.

But if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that it’s the unimaginable that will bring us down.

Back in January, we were all dreading the draining politics that goes along with an election year. We also had those worries that never go away. We worried about money, our kids, our jobs, getting older. But did anyone have global pandemic on their future-worry bingo card?

If we cannot ever truly predict the future, then wouldn’t it behoove us to find satisfaction in the present?

On my fridge is a great cartoon by Gahan Wilson of The New Yorker fame. It depicts two robed monks sitting beside each other, one young and one old. The younger monk looks confused and irritated. The older monk looks frustrated, as if the younger one is still missing the point of all the teachings. The caption reads, “Nothing happens next. This is it.”

Nothing happens next. This is it. The happiness, health and wholeness we so desperately want is right here. But it takes focus and intentional awareness to locate it.

Consider the Hopi people, who do not have words to describe the past or the future. In fact, they have no word to describe time at all, because they don’t see the value in that idea. In releasing their attachment to temporality, the Hopi exist almost completely in this moment. To them, this literally is all that there is.

Nothing happens next y’all. This is it. Don’t you want to be aware and awake for it?

Erin Smith is the owner of the OM place in Winchester, the author of “Sensible Wellness” and the online host of the OM channel.