Fear of the future

Even the smallest changes can throw us slightly off-course and make us anxious about the future.

Woman sitting on a bench at the top of a hill at sunset
Photo by Sage Friedman / Unsplash

When I woke up this morning, I was nervous. Having meditated every day since August 2014, and across almost 2,500 consecutive days, I've opened the Headspace app and spent somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes listening to Andy Puddicombe, the app's co-founder.

My life has changed dramatically over the years, yet Andy's meditations have been one of the few constants, something familiar but essential. Headspace comes with a Run Counter feature which totals the days you've meditated in a row.

At various points, Andy has mentioned that if you are attached to the number there, which I am to a degree, you should let it go. That's part of the practice of focusing on the present. I meander between feeling compelled to continue my six-year run streak, but at the same time appreciate that it's only a number, and I that should let it go.

Despite first encountering this idea a few years ago, I've yet to break the counter; change, it turns out, can be pretty tricky.

The app is split into themed packs. Having meditated for so many years, I've completed most of the collections at least once, sometimes twice. But there's a new pack on Fear of the Future.

Like many people, I'm somewhat anxious about returning to normal after so many months of COVID-19-related lockdowns, so I figured this was a very relevant pack to check out. But when it loaded, I wasn't greeted by Andy giving me some background to the meditations.

Instead, it was one of the newer teachers at Headspace, Eve. I've listened to a few of the Radio Headspace podcast episodes she's presented, so I was familiar enough with her voice. She's an excellent speaker, and her tone is exactly right for the app.

My slight hesitation was nothing to do with Eve, though, and everything to do with my own familiarity and routine. Although happy to check out Eve's podcast episodes, I hadn't anticipated using a different teacher for my meditation.

This tiny change did make me feel apprehensive; how would I feel during the meditation? Would I still be able to focus? What if the routine changed?

Once settled into the first session, the process did change. In place of a breathing exercise, there was a more extended body scan. Instead of throwing me off, this was a nice change and a shakeup to the routine.

Familiarity is comfortable, easy. Not that meditation should be complex, but to be even slightly anxious about using a different teacher indicates a state of mind in need of meditation.

Rather than accepting the present, I was worried about the future.

As it turns out, I did really need Eve's meditations.