It’s likely you’re familiar with the present moment. The likes of Eckhart Tolle, Ram Dass, Jesus Christ, and your yoga teacher all reference it. The occasional social media meme offers a clue as to where you can find it.
Sometimes it comes out of nowhere and slaps you in the face with something monumental—like a car crash, or a winning lottery ticket. Often, it nags at you with trite inconveniences like waiting in line, sitting in traffic, or brushing your teeth.
It is also, as the saying goes, ALL THERE IS. We must BE HERE NOW because in addition to death and taxes, THIS moment is the only assurance in life. Given the sizable fuss over this moment, perhaps it’s worth a closer look.
What should we do about it? What should we do about NOW?
1. Enjoy it.
Certainly easier said than done. There is a lot to potentially not enjoy about now, so this advice can often feel like condescending drivel. Enjoy this prostrate exam? Enjoy the 47 emails I have to respond to tonight? Enjoy my child screaming about some incomprehensible desire?
This is psycho-spiritual advice (Buddhist roots, perhaps) that doesn’t necessarily refer to the action engaged upon in the external material world, as much as it’s a call to the internal state of how you perceive said action (i.e. take it all in stride).
If you haven’t noticed, all we actually experience with our unique consciousness IS perspective. Whether it’s engaging in something generally perceived as “positive” or “negative,” we always choose what to think about it.
The key to momentary enjoyment is non-attachment. Non-attachment is the voice that says, “HEY, you’re not in control of anything. Stop pretending that you, and you alone, are responsible for the myriad of circumstances converging to form this moment.”
You can’t get where you’re going any faster, so stop trying. This is how we enjoy the moment. We give up the keys and put on our seatbelt.
2. Be aware of it.
All the people mentioned in the intro (Tolle, Dass, etc.) all try to communicate the importance of being aware of life as it’s happening right now. Even more of a challenge to enjoying the moment, is being aware of it.
Our monkey mind spends 95% of its energy getting us away from now. Now is scary to the mind. Now potentially holds all the dangers the mind is conditioned to subvert through its extraordinary planning and problem-solving capacities.
To become aware of this moment is to train the mind to not worry, which requires serious convincing. Employing our minds to become allies in our quest for momentary awareness means we need to put down our weapons—we cannot fight our mind any longer.
Meditation, in some sense, does exactly that; it allows the mind to “do its thing,” free of judgment, and then, through intense concentration (the convincing bit) pulls the mind back to the only thing that really matters—this moment.
Once we come into the moment, the whole nature of reality shifts.
3. Live in it.
Different from our awareness of the present moment and our capacity to enjoy this moment, is the constant opportunity offered us to LIVE in the moment.
Contrary to what may seem like the consequential outcome of “living in the moment,” this doesn’t mean you can’t make plans for the future. You can live in the moment AND schedule an appointment or a lunch with a friend for next week.
Living in the moment is rather about taking responsibility for how you’re engaging with what is right in front of you. Our tendency, as humans, is to use the mind to project our life three steps down the road.
Our near constant projection into the future deteriorates not only our enjoyment of life, but also (perhaps more critically) erodes our engagement with meaningful values and debilitates our capacity for bringing our full self to the experiences presently enveloping us.
Because we don’t connect with the depth of now, we sort of fleetingly participate with what’s in front of us, citing “then” as the moment we’ll finally start being the person we envision for ourselves.
Through this half-lived existence, we enable ourselves—NOW—to say and do things that aren’t a true reflection of how we’d truly like to participate in the world.
This moment holds all the potential for us to participate exactly how we’d like with the world. This moment holds all the potential to change our lives forever. This moment holds all the potential to show us what we’ve never seen before.
We wouldn’t want to miss that, would we?