Author Topic: When to focus on the future  (Read 2379 times)

pwinston

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When to focus on the future
« on: July 13, 2016, 07:45:05 PM »
I've pondered and meditated on "the present moment" for close to two years.

I fully buy into the value of focusing on "now". It has worked wonders for me.

However I'm curious about one technical detail. Don't you have to focus on the future at times? If so how do you justify doing so, or when is it correct to do so?

For example suppose the weather channel is forecasting a major hurricane in 3 days. Because it's coming you busy yourself with boarding up windows, getting supplies, maybe evacuating. These seem like obviously correct behaviors, yet they are driven by something which isn't going to happen until the future. I can think of a number of explanations here:

1) You should focus on now except when it's really important then worry about the future. This isn't a very satisfying explanation because it's a total judgement call exactly when is it important.

2) In above anecdote you are not really focusing on the future at all.  You are boarding up the windows NOW or you are evacuating NOW. The fact that the future motivated these actions isn't a big deal. This seems like a weasel answer that doesn't really get to the heart of things.

3) If a future event is brought to your attention now it's okay to focus on it. So if there is a weather report about a hurricane in 3 days, that's being brought to your attention now, so it's correct to focus on it. You shouldn't worry about your retirement out of the blue for no reason, but if you get a retirement statement in the mail it's correct to consider it.

None of these seem very satisfying. It seems like the meditation goal is "focus 100% on the present moment and sensations you are having right now" but no one could actually live like that all the time, because we do need to plan, etc.

Goofaholix

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Re: When to focus on the future
« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2016, 09:23:30 PM »
The past is gone, the future hasn't arrived yet, what is left?

There is no need to focus on the present because quite simply there is nothing else.

There is nothing wrong with planning for the future, thinking through the options etc, but this is thinking and planning that is all happening in the present.

What you need to do is distinguish between the story, the narrative about the past in future, and what is happening in the present which is just thinking and there is nothing wrong with that unless you are intending to do something else and it's disturbing you.

Thomas D

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Re: When to focus on the future
« Reply #2 on: July 13, 2016, 09:24:55 PM »
I too had problems with these things before. I read stuff and took it to the extreme, forgetting all about common sense.

Point is to live intelligently. Using most of your awareness on the present moment and then planning ahead when neccessary.

I'd go for number 3.

rogp99

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Re: When to focus on the future
« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2016, 09:33:52 PM »
I think the worst things one can do is panic or sitting there like a duck and do nothing (yes, extremes)

1) is too wishy-washy.
2) is... hard to say.
3) is good. One still keeps watching his mind to see if he is distracted or saddened, etc.

It can be said that this practice helps you use the know-how and not the know-how itself.
« Last Edit: July 13, 2016, 09:43:17 PM by rogp99 »

Dharmic Tui

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Re: When to focus on the future
« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2016, 12:10:01 AM »
The past is gone, the future hasn't arrived yet, what is left?

There is no need to focus on the present because quite simply there is nothing else.

There is nothing wrong with planning for the future, thinking through the options etc, but this is thinking and planning that is all happening in the present.

What you need to do is distinguish between the story, the narrative about the past in future, and what is happening in the present which is just thinking and there is nothing wrong with that unless you are intending to do something else and it's disturbing you.
This I feel is where it's at. The importance is in separating thinking about the future vs. actively putting your mind and emotions in the future. I hear of hurricane, I prepare for the hurricane, instead of obsessively worrying about the hurricane.

Middleway

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Re: When to focus on the future
« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2016, 03:59:06 AM »
I've pondered and meditated on "the present moment" for close to two years.

I fully buy into the value of focusing on "now". It has worked wonders for me.

However I'm curious about one technical detail. Don't you have to focus on the future at times? If so how do you justify doing so, or when is it correct to do so?

For example suppose the weather channel is forecasting a major hurricane in 3 days. Because it's coming you busy yourself with boarding up windows, getting supplies, maybe evacuating. These seem like obviously correct behaviors, yet they are driven by something which isn't going to happen until the future. I can think of a number of explanations here:

1) You should focus on now except when it's really important then worry about the future. This isn't a very satisfying explanation because it's a total judgement call exactly when is it important.

2) In above anecdote you are not really focusing on the future at all.  You are boarding up the windows NOW or you are evacuating NOW. The fact that the future motivated these actions isn't a big deal. This seems like a weasel answer that doesn't really get to the heart of things.

3) If a future event is brought to your attention now it's okay to focus on it. So if there is a weather report about a hurricane in 3 days, that's being brought to your attention now, so it's correct to focus on it. You shouldn't worry about your retirement out of the blue for no reason, but if you get a retirement statement in the mail it's correct to consider it.

None of these seem very satisfying. It seems like the meditation goal is "focus 100% on the present moment and sensations you are having right now" but no one could actually live like that all the time, because we do need to plan, etc.

What is missing from the above 3 scenarios? Why are you so concerned about your self preservation? Why do you want to protect your property? Why do you want to protect your family?

What would an enlightened person do in similar predicament? What would be the difference in his/her thought process than yours?

You will worry for your physical well being, worry about your property, worry about uncertain future, whether your store will still be standing when you come back, what happens to your livelihood if the store is destroyed etc. These reactions are all directly resulting from your attachment and clinging.

An enlightened person would care and work to protect everyone in town without any regard to him/herself or property.

So, when we are faced with the scenario presented above, we should watch our form, feelings, and mental formations and contemplate on the root cause of all those conditioned reactions. Staying in the  now is not just for the sake of staying in the now. There has to be a certain aspect of reflective awareness of your own thoughts and emotions and feelings arising in the NOW.
« Last Edit: July 14, 2016, 04:03:00 AM by Middleway »
Take everything I say with a grain of salt.

Thomas D

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Re: When to focus on the future
« Reply #6 on: July 14, 2016, 06:23:59 AM »
If you truly are present in the now, is it possible to neglect your mental formations and reactions, cause and effect and so on?

I'm thinking that when you get to the point that you naturally gravitate towards mental stillness and you become anchored inside your body, that wisdom will arise all by itself. Of course, some wisdom is required to get to that point already. But you don't need to ponder wisdom too much.

On the way to stillness, trust yourself. Know that you are not enlightened yet. Help yourself first, then others.

If something in the future arises, then deal with it. If not, then the calm and stillness that you have developed will naturally  become less calm because there is an issue grabbing your attention. My mother told me this, get stuff done, then you can be relaxed again.

Only an idiot would do nothing and force his mind quiet. I've tried that by the way. Didn't work out well.


stillpointdancer

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Re: When to focus on the future
« Reply #7 on: July 14, 2016, 01:09:04 PM »
I think that there is a difference between being in the present when you are meditating on the mat, and living every moment in the context of everyday life. The former case is timeless, where there is only the present moment. The latter case is living every moment of your day-today life mindfully. You are mindful of the present and, since things arise on conditions, of the future consequences of any action you take. For me, I think this is how you extend your meditation practice into everyday life.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

pwinston

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Re: When to focus on the future
« Reply #8 on: July 16, 2016, 09:29:27 PM »
There is no need to focus on the present because quite simply there is nothing else.

There is nothing wrong with planning for the future, thinking through the options etc, but this is thinking and planning that is all happening in the present.

This was roughly my option 2. It doesn't seem like a useful explanation because it seems to devalue the ability of a trained meditator to focus more, or more often, on the present.

If the present is "all that there is" then wouldn't the most untrained scatter-brained person be living in the present exactly as much as the most experience meditator? What is it that we are doing with our training if we are all equally living in the present already?

pwinston

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Re: When to focus on the future
« Reply #9 on: July 16, 2016, 09:58:44 PM »
The importance is in separating thinking about the future vs. actively putting your mind and emotions in the future. I hear of hurricane, I prepare for the hurricane, instead of obsessively worrying about the hurricane.

Lots of interesting responses in this thread but this jumps out at me.

I really like "actively putting your mind and emotions in the future" as something you don't want to do. I think that nails worrying and also fantasizing. In both cases you are occupied with an imagined future which doesn't currently exist and may never exist.

I think the generic term is delusion. If you are worrying or fantasizing you are channeling as inputs to your mind non-real stuff, and that's bad.

I also think there is something to be said about decisions. If a decision is arising in the present (should I board up my windows right now) then it's okay to consider information related to the future (what does the weather report say)? But if there is simply no decision to be made, then it seems immediately dubious that one should be thinking about it? Or is it not that simple?

It's an interesting question to me. I really appreciate the replies and this has advanced me past an obstacle in my thinking, if not quite resolved it.

Goofaholix

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Re: When to focus on the future
« Reply #10 on: July 17, 2016, 01:20:38 AM »
If the present is "all that there is" then wouldn't the most untrained scatter-brained person be living in the present exactly as much as the most experience meditator?

Yes.

What is it that we are doing with our training if we are all equally living in the present already?

Giving up the delusion that we can somehow escape the present into some fantasy about the future, or the past, or just plain fantasy.  Giving up the constant craving for something more or something different, for anything but the present simply as it is.

Laurent

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Re: When to focus on the future
« Reply #11 on: July 17, 2016, 10:36:02 PM »
If the present is "all that there is" then wouldn't the most untrained scatter-brained person be living in the present exactly as much as the most experience meditator? What is it that we are doing with our training if we are all equally living in the present already?

This question is really the heart of buddha's teaching.

You should know that you are actually living in the present and that past or future and also some stuff in the present exist only in your mind, but knowing this serves nothing useful else that to lead you to experiment it in the present.

The difference is huge. It is to be aware of it, not to think about it or to consider it intellectually.
Buddha did not teach some philosophy or concepts to consider, but the way to see by oneself.

Why? This is the question. Why to train to be aware of reality nature more and more deeply? Why not just think about it and believe this is true by intellectual coherence and live with good-sense by knowing this?
 Because it does not free anyone from attachement and ignorance. It keeps intellectual concepts, not insight. It does not purify your mind. In Buddha's teaching, believing something by intellectual coherence is a wrong sight.

This is exactly the opposite of Buddha's teaching. You develop concepts from Dhamma. Buddha taught to develop no concept, just developing attention in the present to see reality as it appears. We don't analyze thoughts ,but the process of thoughts himself in the present. Thoughts stay thoughts, they are useful in mundane world and reality does not change. You change.

Buddha clarified this question a lot of times like in the Mulapariyaya Sutta:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.001.than.html

Bahiya Sutta:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/ud/ud.1.10.than.html

Mahatanhasankhaya Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.038.than.html

and others.

« Last Edit: July 17, 2016, 10:57:10 PM by Laurent »

pwinston

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Re: When to focus on the future
« Reply #12 on: July 18, 2016, 09:10:56 PM »
for anything but the present simply as it is.

This hits home to me. Not just "pay attention to the present". But see the present as it really is. And I like the work "delusion", having false beliefs.

But how does this all related to our senses? I know during meditation you learn to pay attention to the feel of our breath on your skin, rise and fall in your chest, ambient noises, pressure of feet or legs of floor. So it seems like one could way "in order to be mindful pay attention only to your senses and nothing else". But I don't think it's ever phrased that way.

pwinston

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Re: When to focus on the future
« Reply #13 on: July 18, 2016, 09:23:01 PM »
It is to be aware of it, not to think about it or to consider it intellectually.

Yes I believe this 100 times over. I have read maybe 25 books related to mediation on Buddhism in last last year. I never read the original sources like you cite, not yet, but more accessible things. I don't think I've really learned a thing from books. I have maybe, but by far the most valuable changes are in awareness. I cannot tell if the books contribute to that or if it's just meditation. Mainly with books I find myself just recognizing stuff as "true" or "not true" and enjoying books with a lot of truth in them. But I cannot say I've learned a lot.

Laurent

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Re: When to focus on the future
« Reply #14 on: July 18, 2016, 09:43:21 PM »
Yes I believe this 100 times over. I have read maybe 25 books related to mediation on Buddhism in last last year. I never read the original sources like you cite, not yet, but more accessible things. I don't think I've really learned a thing from books. I have maybe, but by far the most valuable changes are in awareness. I cannot tell if the books contribute to that or if it's just meditation. Mainly with books I find myself just recognizing stuff as "true" or "not true" and enjoying books with a lot of truth in them. But I cannot say I've learned a lot.

Attention becomes stronger and stronger. The step you describe is not a really strong attention, so you have probably not experimented dhamma vicaya which appears when attention is strong. This experience would answer to your question i guess.

Ananapanasati Sutta (extract)
"And how are the four frames of reference developed & pursued so as to bring the seven factors for awakening to their culmination?

"[1] On whatever occasion the monk remains focused on the body in & of itself — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world, on that occasion his mindfulness is steady & without lapse. When his mindfulness is steady & without lapse, then mindfulness as a factor for awakening becomes aroused. He develops it, and for him it goes to the culmination of its development.

"[2] Remaining mindful in this way, he examines, analyzes, & comes to a comprehension of that quality with discernment. When he remains mindful in this way, examining, analyzing, & coming to a comprehension of that quality with discernment, then analysis of qualities as a factor for awakening becomes aroused. He develops it, and for him it goes to the culmination of its development.

"[3] In one who examines, analyzes, & comes to a comprehension of that quality with discernment, persistence is aroused unflaggingly. When persistence is aroused unflaggingly in one who examines, analyzes, & comes to a comprehension of that quality with discernment, then persistence as a factor for awakening becomes aroused. He develops it, and for him it goes to the culmination of its development.

"[4] In one whose persistence is aroused, a rapture not-of-the-flesh arises. When a rapture not-of-the-flesh arises in one whose persistence is aroused, then rapture as a factor for awakening becomes aroused. He develops it, and for him it goes to the culmination of its development.

"[5] For one enraptured at heart, the body grows calm and the mind grows calm. When the body & mind of a monk enraptured at heart grow calm, then serenity as a factor for awakening becomes aroused. He develops it, and for him it goes to the culmination of its development.

"[6] For one who is at ease — his body calmed — the mind becomes concentrated. When the mind of one who is at ease — his body calmed — becomes concentrated, then concentration as a factor for awakening becomes aroused. He develops it, and for him it goes to the culmination of its development.

"[7] He carefully watches the mind thus concentrated with equanimity. When he carefully watches the mind thus concentrated with equanimity, equanimity as a factor for awakening becomes aroused. He develops it, and for him it goes to the culmination of its development.

(Similarly with the other three frames of reference: feelings, mind, & mental qualities.)

"This is how the four frames of reference are developed & pursued so as to bring the seven factors for awakening to their culmination.

Clear Knowing & Release
"And how are the seven factors for awakening developed & pursued so as to bring clear knowing & release to their culmination? There is the case where a monk develops mindfulness as a factor for awakening dependent on seclusion, dependent on dispassion, dependent on cessation, resulting in relinquishment. He develops analysis of qualities as a factor for awakening... persistence as a factor for awakening... rapture as a factor for awakening... serenity as a factor for awakening... concentration as a factor for awakening... equanimity as a factor for awakening dependent on seclusion, dependent on dispassion, dependent on cessation, resulting in relinquishment.

"This is how the seven factors for awakening are developed & pursued so as to bring clear knowing & release to their culmination."

That is what the Blessed One said. Gratified, the monks delighted in the Blessed One's words.

It is to be aware of it, not to think about it or to consider it intellectually.

Yes I believe this 100 times over. I have read maybe 25 books related to mediation on Buddhism in last last year. I never read the original sources like you cite, not yet, but more accessible things. I don't think I've really learned a thing from books. I have maybe, but by far the most valuable changes are in awareness. I cannot tell if the books contribute to that or if it's just meditation. Mainly with books I find myself just recognizing stuff as "true" or "not true" and enjoying books with a lot of truth in them. But I cannot say I've learned a lot.

Books can mislead you. I believe but it is just my belief, that suttas cannot mislead you if you read some of them regularly while practising a lot.
If you read some suttas and then practice and don't read anymore suttas but think about it, developing concepts from it, which is difficult to avoid if you don't regularly read Buddha's words, it can mislead you.
Same if you don't really practice the eightful path completely, regularly, reading suttas will consist on mind game and philosophy.
Suttas are more simple than any books you can read about buddhism, they are not philosophy but instructions to meditation for the main part, and so do require practice to be fully apprehended (i can only suppose, because i am not in the case of reading them without practising)
Some of them are very short, some are very long.
They are always refreshing mind. A must before meditation session!
Buddha's speech. Very brilliant  ???
« Last Edit: July 18, 2016, 10:57:30 PM by Laurent »

Goofaholix

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Re: When to focus on the future
« Reply #15 on: July 19, 2016, 04:56:09 AM »
But how does this all related to our senses? I know during meditation you learn to pay attention to the feel of our breath on your skin, rise and fall in your chest, ambient noises, pressure of feet or legs of floor. So it seems like one could way "in order to be mindful pay attention only to your senses and nothing else". But I don't think it's ever phrased that way.

Everything you experience is experienced through the 6 sense doors.

drewscanlon

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Re: When to focus on the future
« Reply #16 on: July 20, 2016, 02:42:07 PM »
The importance is in separating thinking about the future vs. actively putting your mind and emotions in the future. I hear of hurricane, I prepare for the hurricane, instead of obsessively worrying about the hurricane.

Lots of interesting responses in this thread but this jumps out at me.

Same here! I would argue that, despite the hurricane being merely a possible future event, by receiving the news of the hurricane in the present moment and then deciding a course of action, you are acting mindfully.

I don't know if this is "correct," but I do something similar in my daily life. When carrying out a task mindfully I try not to let myself ponder about the future. However, between tasks, that's when I allow myself to stop, consider what to do next, what else is coming later, and then act skillfully.

TheJourney

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Re: When to focus on the future
« Reply #17 on: July 22, 2016, 03:24:47 AM »
If you have a thought about the future and worries you or you feel you need to do something, simply plan what you can do to prepare for that future. Execute your plan in accordance to your timeline, after that just live in the present moment. Put your worry and plan on paper and execute as you go for each moment of your life.

pwinston

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Re: When to focus on the future
« Reply #18 on: July 22, 2016, 08:06:16 PM »
Everything you experience is experienced through the 6 sense doors.

This doesn't sound right. We can experience things that are entirely within our own heads can't we? Manufactured by our minds? Like worry or an emotion or a memory?

For example if I experience joy because I'm remembering a fond memory from childhood, I don't see how that joy is coming in through a sense. Except in the very thin way that memory came from a sense.



Goofaholix

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Re: When to focus on the future
« Reply #19 on: July 22, 2016, 08:20:09 PM »
This doesn't sound right. We can experience things that are entirely within our own heads can't we? Manufactured by our minds? Like worry or an emotion or a memory?

For example if I experience joy because I'm remembering a fond memory from childhood, I don't see how that joy is coming in through a sense. Except in the very thin way that memory came from a sense.

In Buddhist psychology the mind is classified as the sixth sense, so "Everything you experience is experienced through the 6 sense doors" means everything is experienced through the 5 physical senses and/or the mind.