- Mental Health
Joy of Living in Here & Now
A Not so Apparent Gift
I think there is no better way to start addressing this topic but by quoting the old proverb: Yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery, and today is a gift - that's why they called it "present". A present it truly is; not one that we would have to wait for until Christmas, or birthday, or as an award for our professional or artistic achievement - but rather a present that's attached to every heartbeat and every breath we are taking.
It's a present awaiting us every morning as we open our eyes. Unless we are already in a habit of treating it as a gift with a grateful heart at that first morning stretch, maybe it's time for us to start with that routine, instead of saying: "Oh, crap! Time to go to work again! I wonder what this day is going to hit me with".
After we would metaphorically unwrap that present, we might face this possibly life-saving realization that now is the only time when life is happening. When we say "my life", it's not really that story about our past experiences that could make for a good material in a biography, but rather this current time of it when any stories could be told or be quiet about.
Likewise, our life is not that story of our plans, expectations, worries, concerns, hopes tied to the days or even years to come, all of that is merely our mind's constructs having nothing to do with the only reality there is - the reality of this current now. Both, our past and our future are happening in this now, because that's the only time when life is happening, and they can merely be a part of our present mental activities.
Rejecting the Gift - or, Escaping from the Now of Life
A huge percentage of our thoughts are happening unconsciously, where they are either attached to our current situation or, which is much more likely, to our past and future. In a sense, people are not mentally present but absent from the flow of their life, with all those phantoms of their past and future having a party with stress hormones and making their muscles tense.
So many folks are in a habit of reading their newspapers with their first morning coffee. Now, when you think of it - what is that in us really that we are feeding by doing that? Why do we want to know about something that's gone in time and can't be brought back for editing in any way?
We may rationalize how we are "just being concerned citizens wanting to know what's happening in our country". But, no matter how you turn it around, it's something that's gone. Those people killed can't be resurrected, those raped minors can't be virgins again, those houses flattened by tornadoes can't be brought back to their previous looks.
So what is that dark passion in us that insists on mentally being present in events in which we have no control to do anything? The answer is simple: We want to "live" a reality that we find more interesting than are our lives. Now, instead of doing something to make our lives more interesting, we opt to escape from it into a world in which we don't have to do anything.
How is that for mental laziness, folks?
Stress and Distress
Stress is the big theme of the modern times, and we got it all upside down in that department. Namely, what we usually call "stress" is actually "distress". Now, I am not merely playing with synonyms here, but the difference is worth mentioning as it pertains to our topic.
Stress is good for you. It's that state in which we mobilize our abilities, strengths, emotions, and attitudes to do something that we like doing. Like sports, hiking, sex, musical performance, home remodeling, and challenges of all sorts. It's performance stress, adventure stress - good for you.
Its first difference from distress is that we can easily unwind from it. But try to unwind from a still fresh memory of your boss accusing you of something that someone else did. Try to recover from the news that the auditor is coming to sniff around your business books that are not exactly in order.
Stress is a response to something that's happening now and here, whereas distress is a reaction to an apparent threat that we are foreseeing in the future, or a replayed mishap from the past.
Since our nervous system is a goal-striving mechanism, any situation demanding an action that's absent, and we can do nothing about it right now makes us "press on the gas pedal while in a parking position" and that is taxing our nervous and endocrine systems with distress, while also making our muscles tense, as they can't spend that energy of readiness.
We can feel distress also by trying to mentally escape from an unpleasant action to be done in the present situation, so all that energy being mobilized for dealing with it is again wasted on "revving without moving anywhere".
You see what I am saying? Living in the past or future is quite unhealthy for us, beside the fact that it is totally ineffective way of living, while we are missing this only time that life is happening. That could remind us of that old Arab saying: "You can't mount a camel that has passed by, or the one that hasn't come yet".
Tuning into My Flow of Life
In those years when I was heavily into consolidating for myself a workable psycho-philosophy of living and a self-discipline to back it up, I was dwelling in quite a few of those useful self-advancing modalities that had "now and here" for a their common denominator. Like Erhard Seminars Training, Focusing, and Mindfulness meditation - to mention just those few for any of you who might have "been there".
I can remember my resolve to find out what it was that I was possibly escaping from in my life. So I spent some nights when I was all by myself sitting on a sturdy chair with my back straight and gazing at one tiny crack on the wall in front of me.
I wanted to face anything that would well up to the surface when my mind is deprived from "entertaining itself" with all kinds of escape hatches. I can tell you, it was quite an amazing experience, as I was introduced to a "me" that I was not very familiar with.
All sorts of emotions started surfacing along with thoughts, some of them that I found hard to accept, but that's what it was all about - nonjudgmental observing of my unconscious material that came out spurred by that uncomfortable gazing at one spot. Now, don't ask me how long I spent doing it, because I won't tell, but suffice it to say that it was a groundbreaking experience in the history of my attempts to make myself a better functioning human.
I definitely learned to live my moment to moment intimate and outer reality by staying in touch with that flow of life in me. Life stopped being "my personal story" and took a significance of a very gratifying process. I could never be bored again, because there was nothing in me that I wanted to escape from, no places that I would rather be, no money that I would rather have - so that life would feel more complete.
Now, I am not telling anyone to spend hours gazing at a wall, but it was only to illustrate an extreme of an attempt that anyone can do - to get more in touch with that flow inside which means life more than any memory, or any anticipation, positive or negative.
In a Spirit of Childhood
Getting unstuck from the limiting dwelling in the past and future, we find ourselves in a time when little miracles are possible. We experience an emergence of a brand new freedom to arrange our intimate reality as we wish.
In that free mindset we are given a sort of a "blank check" to fill-in any mood, any chosen line of thinking. Then, if we really want to daydream about some pleasant memories, we can do that too - always aware that those memories are just an activity in the here and now, not allowing them to override the significance of our present or to give a tone to it.
As I do my usual morning pacing back and forth in my living room which is my version of a "workout", I may stop by the balcony window to casually observe the traffic down there, the horizon outlined with those skyscrapers of the downtown, and flocks of Canada gees flying down south...well, anything that's offering to be seen at the moment.
Then I usually do something that's out of ordinary which belongs to my morning mental exercise. With a consciously ignited surge of positive energies flooding all my being I convert that ordinary scenery into something full of meaning and beauty. I project that inner emotional state onto something that per se doesn't "deserve" it.
As I am doing it, I can't help but always being reminded of the fact how everyone out there is doing exactly the same - giving a suchness to their world by painting it in colors of their dominant emotional climate, their attitudes and views. They think - in reverse - about that world doing something to them.
Over all these years it has become my normal "model of experiencing life", and I believe that it has made a huge difference in my capacity to experience happiness, to enjoy a robust health, and to nurture rewarding relationships with people of my life and the whole world.
There is something of that spirit from childhood being involved in such a mindset, with this willingness to explore to unknown possibilities of growing, evolving, being more. Indeed, there are times when I get a little shocked upon the thought that I am in my early seventies. Time has such a different meaning to me - it's all an eternal "now", and it's enormously adding to this feeling of being alive. A now and here that's worth embracing - not escaping from.