We all move forward through time because that is the nature of time; it progresses. Due to our brain structure, we are also able to travel back in time through memory. And based on our memories, whether they are biased, fading, or correct, we think about them as well as our current experience to make predictions about the future. These predictions often inform our current behavior.

Thus, we live in the past, the present, and the future. This makes life rich, but it also makes it complicated. We get all kinds of messages about which time is the best. “Live in the moment!” “Keep your eye on the prize!”

Getting stuck in any one time can cause a lot of problems, though. For example, depressed thoughts and feelings, for example, come in part from viewing today’s misery as being a constant. The past was always bad and the future will be bad. Past joys and the possibility of joy in the future are buried under the weight of today’s despair. Impulsive behavior comes from living too much in the moment. I want this now. I feel this now. The past doesn’t matter and the future only matters in like of getting the goal I want right now, accomplished.Later, after the negative consequences come crashing down, impulsive behaviors result in regret and guilt about the past. And anxiety often comes from living in the future of “what-if’s” and “what might be”.

One of the things I have noticed in my mindfulness practice, is that I am better able to integrate my past, present, and future. I observe the present and recollect the past. I use information from both of these times to inform the plans for my future. Being able to travel through the time of my own life is a fascination to me. I don’t always travel at the right time or to the right place. But I think I am getting better at it, more frequently feeling in more of some kind of balance.

Memory makes life complicated. But without it, we would always live in the present moment. And that, my friends, would be although a simple way to live, a very dependent, sometimes incredibly distressing way to live. There’s no sophisticated learning without memory. There are no moments of beautiful nostalgia. No dreams for the future and no appreciation for the way that people and their relationships unfold over time. I could go on and on.

A life with just one time is like a story without a beginning or an end, just the middle. And the middle is the crisis, as I recall, the problem that needs to be solved. I want to continue understanding the grand narrative of my life. It has many beginnings, middles, and ends. My life has many stories, some unfolding as we speak, and they are all part of who I am and how I connect with the rest of life.