It happened during a talk before our weekly meditation when I had this image of a hot air balloon while we discussed aspects of the past, present, and future. When do you find it hard to be in the present moment because you are thinking about the past or the future? Before I move on to explain this hot air balloon metaphor, take a pause and ask yourself this question. When is it hard for you to be in the present?
As we discussed our experiences, people shared that for some, it's the past, for some, it's the future, and for some, it was both. I started to talk about letting go of balloons when suddenly, the image of a hot air balloon popped into my head, and I realized that there is a very close resemblance to how mindfulness can be demonstrated.
And here it goes: The hot air balloon I'm thinking of is made of four relevant elements to make it work. There is the balloon and the basket, the sandbags and the burner. These elements can connect to us in this way:
Balloon and basket = Us
Sandbags = Past
Burner = Future
For the balloon to lift off the ground, we would need to let go of some sandbags and start the burner to release hot air into the balloon. We would've had to let go of enough sandbags and release enough hot air to start floating above the ground to reach the perfect height. Now, what does it have to do with our lives and mindfulness?
In our lives, we can find it challenging to let go of what happened in the past and what could be happening in the future, even though it's out of our control. Instead of feeling pressure to be in the present moment by NOT thinking about the past or future, we can learn how they coexist in the present moment.
Now think of a moment when you were pulled into the past and future and had difficulty letting go. As we get into the basket of the hot air balloon, we start to bring to awareness this moment of the past that would be useful to let go of to move on with our lives. It could be pettiness of being too critical of how someone did or didn't do something. And slowly, the balloon can get off, but not high enough yet, so we can think of a positive outcome that lets this critical thing that could happen, for example, finding a new way we can cope with this done or undone subject matter. So we get off the ground more and more. And to get higher, we let go of more of this minor nuisance that weighs us down and doesn't carry so much significance if we look at our whole life and the complete picture and see what it could hold in the future by letting them go. And it's not to paint the future pink and rosy but in a feasible way. At some point, we have reached a balanced place between the past and the future, letting us enjoy the present moment differently. Remember, we are still in the hot air balloon, and at this point, we have reached the perfect height. High enough, we don't touch any trees or mountains and low enough that we still can breathe at ease.
What happens now is what makes all the difference. From this angle, we can now see far into the distance behind and in front of us. It's a way to see where we started and what direction we're heading without knowing where we are heading, as this ride has no steering wheel to guide the direction. What we need is trust. Trust that by letting go of past experiences that no longer serve us and leaning into the future without knowing where we're heading. That's when we can find ourselves in the space of mindfulness—being aware of what is happening at this moment without attachment but integration of our past and future paths.
Floating in the air allows us to see life from a different perspective, not only our own also from the other person. We might realize that when we step away enough and get a bird's eye view, we are not those experiences. By disentangling us from the past and future, not possessing them, we allow a new reality and presence to take shape. When you find yourself stuck in a conflict, a project, or any daily/life situations, set foot into the basket, and start seeing life unfolding from a different space by letting go of some of the past bit-by-bit, inviting the future as it represents itself, while being in the flow of floating in the air in a hot air balloon.