Why Making Plans is a Practice of Presence — and Can Bring Meaning to the Now

If you’ve exprienced or survived trauma or loss, you may be familiar with the feeling that the future feels daunting. The lessons of our yoga practice teach us that cultivating a sense of presence and appreciation for the here and now can help us to feel grounded and content, and may even help to combat symptoms of depression. And yet when we cannot think about the future, we often experience an acute sense of longing, an inability to find that feleing of grounding or content. In his 2018 groundbreaking book, Lost Connections—Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression—and the Unexpected Solutions, researcher and writer Johann Hari posits that a lost connection to the future may be one major reason we experience depression or anxiety; when our connection to the idea of the future has been severed, we struggle to find meaning in the present.

The Greater Good Science Center in Berkley, CA, backs up this idea that planning for the future can have a similar effect to our psychological wellbeing as does mindfulness practices. “Prospecting,” as sociologists call it, is different from anxiously anticipating the future—it’s a way of dreaming up possibilities. “Besides helping us make decisions and reach our goals,” writes Summer Allen in a 2019 article for Greater Good Magazine, “there is evidence that prospection may improve psychological health more generally.” 

Dreaming up possibilities in turn fosters a sense of optimism. When we view the future as bleak, without anything to look forward to, it’s much more difficult to relish the present moment. My parents used to have a saying in their marriage: Always “wreak H.A.V.O.C.” — “Have A Vacation On Calendar.” It was meaningful for them to always have something to look forward to, particularly when things got difficult. Rather than an obsolete goal or desire, making plans for their immediate future allowed them to get through challenges, motivated by a tangible reward. 

One of the most difficult things about the Covid-19 pandemic has been not only the canceled vacations and plans, but the feeling that future plans themselves are obsolete. Luckily for all of us, vaccines, antibodies, and the hard-won knowledge of the pandemic has allowed for us to again look toward the future with optimism. As such, one of the best things you can do to celebrate is to get that vacation on the calendar. 

What better way to do so than to return to mindful community presence at Sedona Yoga Festival? While May may feel like a long way off, creating the space to imagine the possibilities—and carving out the time for something meaningful to your future self—could be just the thing to help you navigate those winter blues. 

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