How much of your time do you dedicate to thinking of the past or the future? Is that something we can even be aware of? What’s so good about being “in the moment” anyways?
This article will discuss the power of the moment. Being present in the now as a means of living a happy, healthy life is an idea that goes back thousands of years. For good reason, life happens now, not tomorrow or yesterday. It stands to reason that any change we want bring about in our lives begins now, with our awareness of the present.
Why The Present Moment Is All That Matters
If I had to say what the best piece of advice I ever received was, it would be “Be present.” If you read the previous articles you’re aware of the journey to discipline I went through and how meditation was crucial to that process.
Meditation was essential to mastering my mind. But throughout the year I meditated for two hours a day, I was missing something. A secret sauce, if you will. A way to take what I was learning (or unlearning) from my meditations and apply it to my day-to-day. In the meditation circle it is said that meditating is useless if what you learn on the cushion doesn’t come to bear off of the cushion.
That final ingredient arrived in the form of a book. It’s called “The Power Of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. It was published in the 90s and has since been steadily growing in popularity because of the simplicity and universality of its message. Which is simply this: we experience the joy of Being, now.
I read the book once, while I was in the Czech Republic. I found the message so compellingly simple that I read it again, this time transcribing by hand about 90% of the text. Tolle takes the seemingly complex tangle that is the human condition and cuts through it all by clarifying that most of our suffering is brought about by not being present. All depression, resentment and heartache come from ruminating on the past; all anxiety, worry and angst come from living in the future.
All Of These States Of Being Are Cured By Bringing Awareness To The Now
These states are all manifestations of fear and fear cannot coexist with presence. Presence is the light which purifies the unconscious troubles we create for ourselves. Because once you become aware of your self-created troubles, they begin to lose power over you.
And all that happens simply by being present.
Reading the book allowed me to wield the stability of attention I was developing through my meditations and direct it to my daily experience. Suddenly, my life became my spiritual practice. I learned that these “negative states” of being were not negative at all, but actually opportunities for me to practice presence. Instead of ruminating on them or trying to intellectualize “Why?” I felt this way, my practice became, simply, to be present when I experienced these states. To observe them. Not judge them or push them down, but just watch them, objectively, as they arose and passed away.
And, like magic, my life started becoming simpler, more peaceful and more relaxed. It was only after I started approaching my inner states in this way, with presence, that my meditations progressed to the next level, when my mind became quiescent and pliable. Like the surface of a calm lake, where I could see through to the bottom.
The Tangled Ego
In the west we’re taught to intellectualize our inner states, at best, and to react to them, at worst. Personally, before I read “The Power Of Now”, whenever I felt anything like anxiety or worry, I would engage in an intellectual exercise; I’d go full ham on my internal monologue, arguing and discussing with myself. It was the only tool I knew to handle my negative inner states.
Turns out, internal discourse is totally useless for handling worry and anxiety, because these are products of the ego, and the ego always seeks to perpetuate itself, one way or another. So using ego to resolve ego is simply a recipe for tangling ourselves (our consciousness, or soul) up deeper within illusion.
The ego is an illusion, a useful one, but an illusion nonetheless. The ego is the part of us which believes it is separate from the universe. As biological entities, this is supremely useful to our survival, we need the ego to keep us alive. Jumping off of a cliff believing everything will be OK because everything is one is terrible for survival. So the ego has kept us alive. But when we identify with the ego we end up believing we are separate from everything and everyone else, which leads to fear and all its expressions; war, crime, corruption, etc.
The Fundamental Truth Of The Universe Is That It’s A Unified Phenomenon
We are one thing. The ego believes it is separate from the one, and thus, is fights to protect itself. Waking up from this illusion of separateness is the end goal of meditation. Not saying I’m there, just restating what I’ve read.
The ego is that part of us which lies, cheats, connives, manipulates and calculates in order to get its way. Thus, when we try to resolve issues which are born from the ego by using the ego, we are really just making things more complicated for ourselves and others. It might seem like we’re making progress, but ego-born solutions always come with their own costs, one way or another.
Presence gets around all this egoic entanglement. It’s like a machete which cuts through the thickets constructed by our egoic positions. When we bring the light of consciousness to the unconscious it dissolves away, allowing us to just Be.
The Other Powers Of Being Present
If what you just read about the powers of being present weren’t enough, there are other powers which become unlocked when we keep our attention here, now.
Life happens now. Everything that has ever happened to you, you have experienced now. All the love, laughter, joy, sorrow, sadness, pain, it has happened now. When we keep our attention in the present moment we sensitize ourselves to life.
In other words, the resolution of life increases. As keeping our attention in the present moment becomes a habit, thoughts cease to pull our attention away from what is unfolding before us. Consequently, we experience a wider swathe of reality; it’s like opening up the faucet of experience, from a trickle to a torrent. And there is no upper limit to this opening. We can always move deeper into the experience.
Thoughts are like filters which color our experience. Whenever we walk around the world, engaging with people, doing our work, and we are immersed in thoughts, we are experiencing life through a filter. We experience the world not as it is but as we are, and thoughts make the world even less “as it is” and more “as we are.”
Why The Quality Of Your Consciousness Is All That Matters
Tolle writes that the quality of your present consciousness is the sole determinant of the quality of your future consciousness. This is another way of stating “dharma.”
Dharma is a Sanskrit word with no equivalent in modern language. It has many meanings, one of them being “cosmic law and order.” Living according to dharma means living according to the law of the cosmos.
And what is that cosmic law? Honestly, I don’t know, because it’s not something you can know. It’s something you are.
There is a story we’re told during the Vipassana meditation course, which goes something like this: when a seed is planted, a sapling sprouts, grows and finally produces fruits, those fruits will be the product of the seed which came before them. Those fruits will contain seeds which will produce even more trees which will give even more fruits, on and on and on.
If you planted an orange seed you will get oranges. No amount of rituals, chanting or pleading will change the fruit given by the tree.
Nothing Can Change What Was Planted
We are always planting seeds. The seeds we plant are how we are living now. If we live in anger, resentment, worry, anxiety, all forms of fear, we plant the seeds which give us more of the same. Maybe not immediately, but eventually, we all harvest the fruits of our being.
If, on the other hand, we live peacefully, compassionately, gratefully, abundantly, all forms of love, we plant the seeds which give us more of the same in the future. That is living according to dharma.
See, all life seeks to express itself fully. Living in love really means allowing life to express itself fully, to allow it to grow and reproduce and expand in complexity as it has been doing for the past 3.8 billion years on this planet. And we humans are no exception to this cosmic order.
What makes humans different from the rest of life on the planet is that we get to choose the seeds we plant. Other animals choose, but their capacities to do so are nowhere near as evolved as ours.
We always have the power to choose our seeds. And we choose by being present.
How To Be Present – Simply Being
Being present is the simplest thing there is. It might seem like it’s hard at first, that’s only because of the conditioning of unconsciousness we receive as we live and grow in this world. Rest assured, we all have the power to be present, regardless of how deeply we’ve been conditioned to live in our heads.
There are a few ways of being present, I’ve found. One of them is meditation, but we can’t meditate all the time. Most of us aren’t monks, we have responsibilities, and that’s fine. Meditation is a powerful tool and I highly recommend it, but it isn’t essential to start cultivating presence. It does make it easier, though.
Aside from meditation there are two other ways of cultivating presence. One of them is becoming conscious of the breath. When we focus on the breath, our attention gets taken out from the thoughts running around in our head to the experience of breathing. And since breathing is always happening now, that means our attention is in the now.
Focusing on the breath has profound physiological effects which I will write about in another article. But for now I will say that when we breathe consciously, we change our physiology. Long, deep breathing produces a physiology of calm while short, fast breathing excites us. Just by focusing on our breath we change what’s happening inside us, consciously. That’s pretty amazing!
The other form of being present, and one which I practice all the time now, it’s being present in the body.
Our Body Is A Flux
Our body is a fluid entity seeking constant resonance with it’s environment, our internal and external states are in permanent flux. By focusing on the body, the sensations which are always ongoing, we also take our attention away from our thoughts and towards the experience of being.
I don’t wait anymore. Waiting is not something I do, because I always have my experience to attend to. If I ever stand in line, I just take the time to bring my attention to the present, either by focusing on my breath or on my body. Far from getting lost by doing this, I actually become grounded in the present and become more aware of what is going around me, what is being said to me and what I’m learning.
Because everything is happening within us.
This doesn’t mean I don’t get lost in thoughts from time to time. I still do. But many times I get lost in thought only when I choose to do so. Of course, it still happens that I become unconscious and get pulled into my thoughts, I too have personal work to do. No one’s perfect.
In Conclusion, Being Present Is The Best Thing You Can Do
I hope you’ve found this article informative. I started this website to share transformational knowledge and wisdom with my readers. This isn’t anything I came up with, it has been known for thousands of years, but most of us have never been taught about it, even though it could have tremendous impact on our health and well-being; on the very richness of our experience.
Everyone can benefit from putting this wisdom into practice. I have, greatly, which is why I’m sharing my experience in this way. The internet allows us all to have a voice and I was done with just sitting on my hands while watching people suffer. The answers are within us, if we look. But we need to know how to look first, before we find them.
Being present is the simplest choice we can ever make. It’s also the most powerful. All of our choices stem from our experience, and the quality of our experience is directly connected to the quality of our presence. This is an undeniable fact.
Be present and let the universe unfold before you.
To our wealth and success.