Every year, I return to the motherland (TM) to visit family.
In this most recent visit, I noticed a pattern in conversation when catching up with family members.
The conversation will go something like this…
How’s your job?
Do you have a girlfriend?
When are you getting married?
Are you getting a house?
When are you having kids?
No matter the answer, the follow up question is always now what?
If you grew up in an achievement-oriented household, this is all par for the course. Not many families are accustomed to talking about emotions or feelings.
The script of our everyday lives reflects this.
How are you doing is the default question, not how do you feel?
I think our evolution is to blame.
Our brains have developed into problem-solving machines. Always looking out for danger and risks, so we don’t get eaten by the lion in the grass.
Now we have machines, infrastructure and technology that solve most of the problems we used to have. The lion-in-the-grass problem is pretty much gone when we can buy packaged meat at the grocery store or get pizza delivered by UberEats.
Now we’re at the top of the fuckin’ pyramid.
But the problem solving mechanism whirring inside our brain doesn’t turn off.
Solve one problem, and the brain looks for another to solve. “Now what?”
Despite all measures pointing to having more advancement and comfort than any other time in history, we experience more anxiety and stress than ever.
Unceasing mind chatter. Endless distraction. Constant stimulation. More “problems” to solve.
What our brains used to be optimized for is now suboptimal for daily living.
The answer is reductively simple: turn “now what?” into now:
Doing versus being
Here are some ways to pause the problem solving mode of the brain, and live in the present moment:
Take a breath.
Enjoy the moment.
These practices all help to get ourselves out of our minds, and into our bodies.
Sometimes the best solution is to stop thinking. Stop doing. And remember that rest is productive.
Notice how good it feels to stop doing once in a while, and just be.
Appreciate the sensation of simply being alive.
This is how to turn now what? into now.