Is The Here And Now Where It's Really At?
(Cruze and family friend, Megan, in the moment of a gorgeous sunset off our deck.)
I'm teaching my sons to meditate. I am also fine tuning my own skills. It's not always easy. First off, 14 and 15 year old boys can think of a million things more exciting to do than to sit quietly in lotus position for 20 minutes a day. Frankly, I can too. With all of the things we have to accomplish to keep this train rolling successfully down its tracks, making room for 20 minutes of non-activity seems like a real sacrifice.
Oh! But the benefits! And it's not just in the meditation itself. It's in what we are learning by sitting still and being completely present in the here and now. We are giving ourselves a much needed, 20 minute reprieve from the constant chatter that dominates our modern minds. We are also giving ourselves the chance to "check-in" with our passing emotions, heartbeats, physical condition and our vibration. It's a beautiful thing.
Perhaps the most outstanding benefit beyond the physical and mental advantages, such as a calmer mood and slowed heart rates, is learning how to be in the here and now.
This really got me to thinking. Why is it that humans spend so much time mentally lingering in the past or ramping up for the future? Truly, our past is something we cannot change, only learn from. I notice I still go over past situations repeatedly, playing the worst ones over and over and drilling myself on how I could have done better. What a waste of thought. What's done is done. As long as I got the lesson, what's the point of replaying it?
And imagining possible outcomes in the future? If I say this, she will likely say that. If I do that, the outcome will likely be this. We really have no idea and certainly no way of predicting things, do we? I can plan all I want in my head, but the way the future unfolds can still be completely random and unpredictable. Beyond some basic prepping, worrying about the future seems pretty pointless.
The only moment that is real is right now. Think about all we miss when we are physically in the here and now but allow our minds to be in the past or fussing over the future. We miss the beauty and power of the moment.
I shudder to think about how many "here and now's" I've missed over the years. Millions, I'm sure. The first time my child went down the slide on his own because I was worrying about how a meeting went earlier that day. The sweetness of an extra long hug from a partner because I was instead thinking about what to make for dinner.
Spiritual gurus claim that the nirvana of the human experience is as simple as being truly present. If you are chopping onions, give the task your whole self. Feel the roundness of the onion. Relish the burning in your eyes. Hear the slice of the knife through the crisp flesh. Appreciate all that went into that onion growing and coming into your hands. It is beautiful, really, no matter what you are doing. Being truly present is a form of living, walking meditation.
I want to live this way. I want to set up camp in the here and now and let life vibrate through me no matter what I'm doing, pleasant, painful or somewhere in between. I want to experience the human condition to its fullest. I wonder, though, would this exhaust me? Then I realize it's a hell of a lot easier that trying to traverse all three plains all at once: the past, present and future. Perhaps the key to true happiness is just picking the one in the middle and committing to it. What a precious gift that would be to give to ourselves.
Elisa Fortise Christensen is a poet, author and public speaker who lives on the top of a mountain in California with her two sons and two dogs. She writes books on addiction as well as parenting, and combines the subject matter in guiding parents on how to raise addiction-resistant kids.