Why and How to Be Here Now

We could never have guessed
We are already blessed
where we are …
– James Taylor

Living in the moment is a key to happiness and freedom.  Learning to have what Zen teacher, Shunryu Suzuki, called Beginner’s Mind is a way to experience the aliveness of the here and now.  This is a mind that is open to all possibilities and ready for anything. It is a mind free of concepts and stories, a mind that is curious. It is a mind without bias that can accept ‘what is so.’ If we live out of our heads, we’re not here.  We’re busy planning, strategizing, worrying and wanting. We see people, places and things as we hope or expect them to be rather than as they are.  We dwell on past experiences, possible futures, or we try to arrange the present to conform to our desires.  We also end up seeking happiness ‘out there’, believing that fulfilling the mind’s wishes for the ideal job, or perfect relationship will satisfy us. Listening to our yearning and fearful minds, we try to set up our lives for safety and security.  We want assurances that loved ones won’t leave us, accidents won’t happen and our jobs will remain secure.  Freedom of mind and deep fulfillment are truly available to us, though. When we learn how to fully attend to this moment, we can finally relax and find satisfaction right here, right now.

When you live in the now, it is easier to accept the inevitable ebb and flow of life.  You ‘re no longer bound by the need to have everything go your way.  We also discover that we never really could prevent difficult circumstances, but we can choose how to respond to them so that peace of mind is ours, regardless of life’s ups and downs.  In 1993 my daughter, Heidi, was diagnosed with a life-altering illness.  It was, of course, the last thing that any of us in the family ‘wanted.’ Slowly, but surely, we learned  to accept this seemingly unacceptable situation and, further, to use every moment to learn, grow  and love more.  We became closer as a family, rearranged our values and become more patient, compassionate, grateful and present-centered.  Had we held on to resentment or the need to control the present and predict the future, we’d all be unhappy to this day.  We live more ‘in the now’ than we ever did before.

How do you live in the now?   You can regularly practice presence in simple ways.  When you wash the dishes, practice just washing the dishes. When you eat, just eat.  Moment to moment, just do what’s in front of you, not judging yourself when you don’t. If you notice your attention shifting away from the present, gently choose to return your awareness to the task at hand. You can do this anytime, anywhere. In addition, you can also practice observing the tendencies of your mind to lean this way or that, to worry, grasp or compare.  At times it is enough to simply see the way the mind works by noticing what’s actually happening. Then you can come back to ‘just washing the dishes.’

You will discover that every moment of your life is significant.  As you become more and more aware in each moment, you find that it is no longer just the obvious, dramatic events that are important; now small, subtle experiences begin to have just as much meaning. You are showing up for ALL of your life.  As William Blake said, you will be able “to see a world in a grain of sand.”

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