Ram Dass said it, “Be here now”. Eckhart Tolle” calls it “The Power of Now”. “The Past is Gone, the Future does not exist, the Present is here and that is why it’s a gift” say Facebook, Hallmark and even Buzz feed memes. Even our slogan “Be. On. Now” extolls the virtues of fully experiencing the present moment.
And yet, for all the present timeness that seems to be in vogue, nothing elicits more quizzical looks and agonized expressions than the invitation to ‘stay present’. Huh? What is that? “How do I do that?” ask our executive clients over and over again.
When embarking in a mindfulness practice, the first times you try to center and meditate, it may feel like you are trying to stop the Earth’s rotation and slow down time. It feels foreign and full of effort. Something as simple as paying attention to your breath becomes a very challenging thing. Why is it so hard? Well, for starters, maybe this is the first time you are trying to get your mind to focus on command. YOUR command. Remember, you are the thinker, not the thought. But the monkey mind –as Tibetan monks refer to it- has been running amok for years and years, and wants to run the show.
You can experience this right now. As you read this sentence, take a deep breath in. Now out. And again. Look at the words on this page. Stay with me. Don’t let your mind wander. Breathe in and out. That’s it. Now lift your gaze a bit, soften your focus and feel your feet on the ground. If you are sitting, feel your feet on the ground, go up and your calves and now feel where your body makes contact with the chair. Already lost?
Are you feeling impatient? No surprise there.
Like any untrained monkey, your mind will rebel, and do more of what it is used to do. Think randomly, process sensory input, remember, project. And as you are trying to slow it down and focus, it will remind you of the wet laundry you forgot to move to the dryer, the flavor of your favorite chewing gum when you were 16 and that phone call you need to make ASAP.
This is when you need to remember you’ve done this before. You have focused and remained present, albeit for a short period of time. Maybe not on command. But you have been present in the here and now. Maybe it took the form of getting lost in the gaze of your adoring pet, or staring at your newborn’s face for the first time, or when you watched the sun go down, ever so slowly, into the ocean’s wet horizon.
Awe and pleasure are present moment experiences. So next time someone invites you to meditate, don’t feel like they are asking you on an expedition to a -possibly unpleasant- faraway land. Remember that much like pleasure, meditation is all about savoring. Luxuriating in the present moment. And oh yes! You know how good that feels.