I do believe there is a lot of truth to the sentiment described here. However, I do want to point out changes I would make. One may see this as pedantic, but it is not possible to live in the past or the future. This is worth noting because rephrasing the quote can help us move toward a solution.
So I would rewrite the quote this way:
If you are depressed, you are focused on the past and wanting something to be different. You are either longing for something back that is now gone or feeling guilt or regret around something you did or did not do.
If you are anxious, you are focused on the future and attempting to change the flow of time because you are anticipating the coming of something unwanted.
If you are at peace, you are in a state of acceptance and allowance. You may be thinking about the past, the future, or the present, but you are not trying to change any of it.
To me, it makes perfect sense that we would feel depressed when focused on the past. Feeling depressed is more or less the same as feeling powerless. The past is done. It is over. We have absolutely no ability to do anything about it. So focusing on the past with a desire to change it induces depression because we have no power here.
Anxiety is a stronger version of overwhelment. It makes sense that we would feel anxious when attempting to change the course of time flowing into the future because to do so would be a grand undertaking. In fact, if it were even possible, one would have to gain control over a tremendous number of moving pieces in order to do so.
I notice anxiety in my body pretty quickly. I often ask myself where it is coming from and what I am trying to do. I have noticed that when I feel as if things are moving too quickly, my reaction to my anxiety is to push further into the future. It has me trying harder to control what I perceive is coming. This, of course, just causes things to move faster, which causes my anxiety to rise even more.
This morning, I questioned all of this, and consulted the Tarot for an answer. The answer I received was perfect.
First, it was explained to me that I am not trying to control the flow of time as much as I am trying to see what is coming more clearly than I am able to. I have fear around the unknown, so I am pushing to know more about what is coming. The fact is, I will know when I get there and it will serve me well to allow myself to get there when I get there and not rush it. The reality is, I’m not in a rush, but I do have a habit of reacting in a way that just makes things worse for myself.
When I encountered Lao Tzu’s quote before, I questioned why I experience anxiety because I didn’t think I focused on the future that much at all. “I hardly make plans even days in advance, so how can I be focused on the future?” I would argue with myself.
From this morning’s reading, it occurred to me that I do often focus on that piece of the future, which is minutes or hours ahead.
When I think about something that is about to happen, I too quickly imagine aspects of the situation, which may be uncomfortable. In other words, I anticipate discomfort. This is akin to someone who dreads going to work because of something unpleasant that happens there regularly. In the car, on the way there, that person feel anxious. He or she is focused on the future, even if it is just minutes or hours away.
Bam. Busted. That is totally what I do. That is the habit of thought I can focus on shifting.
The message about Letting it Flow (in Speed and Direction) applies here too. Things flow in, flow by, and flow out. I have gotten better at letting things flow by and out, it is the flowing in where I have some issues. I may have released the habit of trying to pull wanted things toward me, but I have not quite released the habit of trying to push unwanted things away from me. In other words, when I desire a specific experience, I have gotten pretty good at letting it come to me in its own time. However, when I think about an experience I do NOT want to have, I start trying to push it away before it has arrived. That is where the anxiety comes from. It is like trying to create waves in the ocean to push away a shark!
All that I wrote in Anxiety is… still applies, but now I’ve reach a new layer of understanding for myself. Now I can begin training myself to focus differently. I can ease myself away from negative anticipation. The reality is, I don’t often create uncomfortable experiences with others. I simply create discomfort in the in between time by anxiously trying to change something, which is not my work.
When worried about the future, one imagines unwanted events while also believing he or she has no ability to control them.
When anxious, one again imagines the coming of an unwanted event, but tries to stop or change it through exerting control.
The truth lies in the middle. We do have the ability to control (create) what comes to us, but not through controlling anything outside of us (neither with coercion nor manipulation). The control we want to gain is over our focus (our thoughts). We can choose to think differently…we can focus on things that feel good, and refocus whenever we find ourselves thinking about things that don’t feel good. That’s where the power is!
I thought I would share this in case anyone else relates…