One of the harder ego issues to crack is the desire for a safe future. It seems so inherently natural to want a safe future that few people even realize that this is an issue. That’s often how it is with the biggest issues that people have. They are completely hidden in plain sight. Their obviousness makes them invisible.

For many people, everything they do is about creating a “better future,” which is often just another way to say safe. But there’s a problem. The future is never here and now. So what people are doing is hoping that by taking actions now that another present moment will be improved. In many regards, people are guessing. They are guessing what they need to do to get some kind of safety later, and who can guess correctly about how to go about this all the time? No one.

One of the primary issues underlying this desire is fear. It’s fear of death and pain as well as the fear of the unknown, which tends to hide the aforementioned fears. This fear drives people to try and control the future to attempt to avoid all situations and people that the person wants to avoid. There is often also another desire at work in terms of the desire to get all the things a person wants to get. Depending on the ego, what is being avoided and what is being sought varies, but none of this has to do with someone living from a space of truth. It’s a big control game, and very often it creates a whole lot of suffering in the present moment and future present moments.

BTW, if you’re new to me, I have an ebook that may help you in dissolving your ego and letting go of desires like this one.

Everyday Spirituality: Cultivating an Awakening

Future Planning Can Be Helpful

I know what a lot of people’s egos are already trying to do while reading this post. They’re trying to justify why they have to think about the future, and they’re already preparing to not “hear” a word I write now. This is the nature of the ego. It tries to protect itself by not hearing things it doesn’t want to hear. But our true nature cannot be hurt by words; only the ego’s beliefs can be hurt, and they are not real.

So do your best to remain open-minded if this spiritual awakening blog post is triggering some kind of defense mechanism.

To be sure, future planning is helpful. It’s actually an enormous gift to have this ability to conceptualize the future and plan for it. Knowing that winter was coming in past generations, people could store food and plan out how much they needed to survive. Knowing that we will have to retire from regular work one day, we can plan for retirement. Knowing that a couple is having a baby, the couple can plan for the things and social supports they need to raise a child. See? I am not saying that the mental ability to plan for the future and to conceptualize the future is bad. But, a whole lot of ego beliefs gum up the process.

False Ego Beliefs Color the Future

However, how people see the future is greatly colored by their egos. Their ego is determining what they believe about the future and about themselves. A large fictional story is created in a person’s head, and those ideas of the future lead them to make all kinds of conclusions about how to act or not to act. For example, a lot of spiritual people are actually very lazy. Their ego uses spiritual discussions about nonaction as an excuse to reinforce their inability and lack of willingness to action. As such, many lazy spiritual people believe that the Divine will just give them everything and take care of their future entirely. Therefore, this spiritual person believes that they don’t have to plan or do anything. Their ego believes that they’ll have a safe future with everything they want provided for them.

Inaction and Nonaction on the Spiritual Path

This attitude is also an entitled attitude, and there is absolutely a growing trend of spiritual entitlement these days. People believe they can have everything they want, and they use spiritual ideas and techniques to try and make the outcomes happen. It’s deeply misguided, and the misguiding force is the ego.

There are as many kinds of false ego beliefs as there are people, and all those beliefs influence how a person sees life. The more those beliefs induce fear in someone, the more their actions are derived from the need to ensure safety. Ironically, the need to feel safe tends to make the person feel constantly scared and unsafe. This anxiety drives some people to greater levels of control, avoidance, self-protection, and other actions in regards to the coming future. Everything looks like it is about fall in on their head.

Consciously Investigating Safety

Lately I’ve been discussing the illusion of safety, and it’s really important to break this ego idea down into 3 main pieces, as I see it.

  • The reality of safety
  • The idea of safety
  • The feeling of safety

The reality of safety is your actual physical reality. Is there a tiger about to attack you? Probably not. For many people, they live in physical safety, but yet, they often don’t feel safe.

The idea of safety is what people perceive to be safe or a threat. One person perceives changing their attire as potentially threatening because she thinks others will criticize her dress. Another person makes a similar style of dress change, but he has no such concerns. Their ideas of what is safe or not in terms of dress are different. It’s absurd that what clothes someone wears can be any form of a threat, but this is potential threat for many people. To be fair, some cultures that have strict social rules on clothing can create a physical threat, essentially making a threat out of nothing.

How People Create Problems out of Nothing

Lastly, there is the feeling of safety, and this is what people really don’t like. Feeling unsafe makes people want to take action to get rid of the feeling, and many times, feeling unsafe is out of sync with the present reality. I know that some of you who have had awakenings push up old feelings in a completely safe situation, yet you don’t feel safe. There’s nothing wrong with the situation. What’s happening is going on inside you, and thus, going within to face the feeling is key to breaking down the desire for safety.

Breaking Apart Mental, Emotional, and Physical Triggers

The Fear of Pain and the Fear of Dying

I know this is jumping ahead in the discussion, but ultimately, safety fears are predominantly rooted in a fear of pain and a fear of dying. Some people see the future with greater potential for some sort of pain, and therefore, they take actions to ensure safety. Others don’t perceive as much threat, so they do less. To be sure, some people who do not use this amazing gift for future planning can end up in bad situations. They perceive more future safety than there is, and that projection can put people in difficult situations. The process of aging, for example, is a known reality to human beings. It’s useful to plan for a future when you are likely to have much less physical abilities rather than to have that moment arrive and not be prepared to properly care for yourself.

So there is no value in believing in a safe or unsafe future. Instead, we learn to stay open to possibility and to let go of the seeking of safety while still maintaining our ability to plan and forecast. However, to properly use this ability to plan, you will have to face many issues. As you peel away each layer, you’re going to find out how much you do fear pain and death even if your ego doesn’t think you do.

Accepting Your Body’s Mortality and Frailty

Confronting Unsafe Feelings to Free Your Future

As someone learns to confront their unsafe feelings and false beliefs about safety, their views on the future start to change. Without safety concerns, what people want to do and what it means to truly live changes. Many people go through times of exploration and re-imagination as they allow themselves to see more possibilities. They can be amazed at what opportunities there are that they never could see before, that their ego would never even allow them to consider because of fear.

And whenever a fear comes up about a possibility, breathe into it. Investigate the fear. As mentioned earlier, any fear about the future is a guess. No knows for certain what the future may bring (with the exception of the death of the body), and frightening oneself in the present moment about the future makes no sense…no sense at all.

Furthermore rather than seeing the future as good or bad, hopeful or dismal, the maturing spiritual person sees the future as something that is only accessed through the present moment. As a result, a person focuses more and more on the present moment–as they should; it is, after all, the only moment we are ever in. Being fully in the here and now allows a person to get a sense of themselves and of life. They can engage with the possibilities here and now, and opportunities grow out of that. The future shapes itself with a little tender loving care and attention from each of us. That doesn’t mean an enjoyable future is in the works; there is so much we cannot plan for such as disease, accidents, larger social trends, and so forth. What it does mean is that the person is living in the real world of the present moment rather than trying to jump away to fantasy future or attempt to avoid a nightmarish future. That tends to help create a future worth living as a happy byproduct.

Be Here Now

The Future Dissolves Into the Now

Once again, the ability to plan and conceptualize the future is a powerful gift. It allows people to address all kinds of issues. The freer someone is of ego issues and desires, the easier it is to know when and how future planning should happen. But as mentioned earlier, all of that planning still happens in the present moment.

Finally, the person dissolving into the present moment does not sacrifice the present moment purely in hopes of a better or less painful future. That kind of sacrifice is like working a job someone hates while looking forward to an enjoyable retirement years in the future. Or that sacrifice can be staying in a miserable relationship until the kids grow up. While there are all kinds of situations and scenarios, suffering in the hopes that things get better in the future without taking action is what is meant by sacrificing the present for the future. Very often, since a person is used to living, thinking, and acting out of suffering, they’ll simply find more suffering in the future that they thought would be better.

Instead of that, dissolve into the now. Let go of the ego desires for future safety. Let go of the ego. If something does not feel safe in you, go towards the feeling in you. The more you take ownership of these feelings, the freer you can become of them. In this way, you come home to the present moment, and you learn to focus on the here and now rather than wishfully hoping that future moments may be better than this one.


I'm a spiritual teacher who helps people find freedom from suffering.

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