Here it is. Behold! And, there it goes. There it goes again.
For those of us untrained in the art of being present to the moment, it can feel like every “present” disappears the instant it’s inspected. Upon holding a present moment before the mind, it slips into the past, unable to be experienced again. It can be remembered, but that’s a whole different exercise.
And yet the gurus, the sages, the experts in mindfulness advocate a “life in the now” in a way that seems unpartitioned and unsegmented into “moments”. An unending stream that "you" (whatever that is) raft upon as the current carries you along. Okay, metaphors fall short a bit, but you get the idea (maybe).
If I’m being honest, I’ve always had a deep suspicion about the value of meditation or mindfulness, or stillness, whatever label you want to slap on it. Or at least worried about certain brands of it. Can you really “empty” your mind and focus just on the present, or a word, or God, or "nothing"? What good does that really do anyway?
But as I’ve tried to practice it, my suspicion of it, I think, is largely rooted in being woefully bad at it.
I’ve got a busy mind. I bet you do too.
Is there something off about how I’m living that makes this “now-ness way of being” so difficult? Okay, I’ll do an inventory. Limit social media, don’t aimlessly scroll. Build margin into my day. Go to sleep and wake-up at the same time every day. Don’t amp up my brain with too much or any caffeine. No screens an hour before bed. Exercise daily (legit exercise, not just walking around your house / doing chores). Eat whole foods, cut the processed crap. Belly-laugh often. Connect with another person.
I don’t do all this stuff all the time and I’m sure a lot of it would make practicing presence easier. No need to go pay some life coach. If you just did that stuff you’d be happier - and almost all of us know that.
But even on days when I feel like I’ve done this stuff fairly well, mindfulness is its own challenge. It is not easy. Not when you’re hard-wired and trained to do the opposite. Nature and Nurture team up on this one to give you a run for your money.
Don’t give up. You don’t squat 350 lbs. your first time. You don’t experience the present for a solid 30 minutes the first time you go to practice stillness either. It takes time. Dedication. Making it a habit.
Why, though? Why should we do it? Is there really something that good that’s worth all the hassle?
Well, in a very real sense, the good that you get is your life. The life you are actually living right now.
Picture it this way: what if, literally, you always directed your mind on what is coming next? The next meal, the next sexual encounter, the next promotion, the next holiday, the next life-stage. Well, one day there won’t be a next, and you’d have spent your life never actually savoring the moments within it - eyes always on the horizon.
None of us are quite that guilty of “literally always” looking at the next - but close. Close enough that this should scare the hell out of you. Some “next” thinking is alright - budget time in for planning and ambition. But, shouldn’t most of our time be spent in “now” mode? I know mine’s not, and I’d like to see what my life looks and feels like when it is.
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