Recently, we’ve been told that ‘Now’ is the new black. That coming to the present, being here and now is the new cool thing to do. Numerous books written about the power of now. So many workshops and retreats, teaching us how to come back to the present. How to focus our minds and concentrate on what’s right here in front of us.
And so… we sign up for a ‘Be Here, Now’ workshop for next month. What do we do in the meantime? We have to hang in there, somewhere between the past and the future, aimless, bored and basically just waiting. Then… the awaited day arrives. We make our way to the retreat and finally, after the first class, where we are invited to notice our incoming and outgoing breaths, we are allowed, given permission, to be right here, and right now. Years of wasted moments are finally coming to fruition. We are taken on a journey through myriad different exercises to bring our conscious focus to the present moment. We notice the chirping of the birds, we notice the touch of the grass, the rays of the sun and the sound of our own voice. We feel a familiar overwhelming sense of tranquility. We are at peace.
We hold hands in a circle, offering our love and gratitude to each other, to the teacher, the teaching, the all-powerful now. We part ways and start making our way back home, back to the future. As soon as we arrive to our familiar surrounding, our all comforting home; we are thrown back into the past, and start to imagine, hope for and desire another ‘Now’ retreat somewhere in the near future.
We quickly realize we have “forgotten” how to be present and desire another opportunity to practice being here and now. We feel somewhat lost realizing we have been missing out on being present and start reminiscing the past moments of being there, in the now, while desiring moments of presence in the future. That is a vicious circle. It is an endless cycle of groping after an invisible carrot you will never reach.
Now, lets investigate the “now” inducing techniques. What happens when you are asked to notice your breath? To listen to the sounds of the birds around you, to bring your attention to your body and movements. If you pay close attention you’ll notice that these practices require two things. The first is the act of erasing. In order to pay attention to the sound of the chirping birds, you have to erase the sound of the air conditioner, the truck that goes by, the grasshopper and crickets and even your own breath. You have to erase those, so that the birds will be front center and present to your awareness. Second, if you really pay attention you’ll notice a slim sense of tension. You almost have to clinch your jaw or tighten your eyes, maybe even slightly tilt your head so your ear is more accessible. Therefore, being in the now, using these techniques, means bringing about an act of focused tension, singling out the object of awareness with an envelope of pressure.
When we contract and tense in order to focus, we will eventually have to expand. When you clinch your fist, you will eventually have to relax and open it. Thus the undulating experience of the pendulum swinging from the past through the present and into the future. This constant sense of motion is the foundational propensity of the mind. Our thoughts, emotions and thus behavior stem from this endless undulation. This is an extremely tiring action we all take, all the time.
Being in the now actually means choosing the exact opposite behavior. Living more in the sense of a peripheral vision. Relaxing our eyes, our ears and our hearts to receive without a limited sense of focus. Without the attempt to remember, catalog and capture each and every moment. Allowing the silence and the sound, the inner and the outer. Having a lessened sense of control over anything reflecting within our awareness. This can’t be considered a practice, because in essence you’re simply “doing” less. You’re allowing a reality that pervades everything around you to basically be and “exist” as it already does.
There is a great sense of freedom in this appreciation of peripheral living. A deep relaxation into what has always been there. As you slow down to appreciate and offer gratitude to your surrounding, as it is, all of it, the highs and the lows, the ins and the outs, life will stop being a strange experience of running after and become an invitation to experience, right now, who you truly are.