Now, now, now…

<April 2007>

It’s funny. When we hear the words “Now, now, now,” we generally take them to be the comforting, calming words used to speak to someone who is in distress.

“Now, now, now,” we say in a soothing tone.

That isn’t what I’m referring to here. I’ve just come back from a very special yoga/breath course (the introductory “Art of Living” course), & one of the key things we talked about was the importance of living/being in the present moment.

In the Now.

A lot of us spend most of our now – most of our present – lamenting & obsessing over the past. “He said, she said” stuff, endlessly. Reviewing & recycling regrets…resentments…& anger…

There’s not much point in it, is there? However mired we choose to keep ourselves in it, we cannot change the past.

When not caught up in the past, we tend to obsess over some imagined future, when we’ll be…rich, married, retired, beautiful, thin, happy…you get my drift. Equally pointless, as our ability to control the future is as entirely beyond our grasp as our ability to change the past.

We really do have only now, haven’t we?

It’s very challenging, of course, to give up on our cherished past & future surfing. We get so much psychic enjoyment (apparently) out of beating up on people who hurt us in the past, don’t we?

(Hmmm. Or do we? I’m not so sure. I think it’s more like wearing chains that keep us in perpetual misery.)

It’s kind of like trying to drive a car forward while looking in the rear-view mirror. Pretty much impossible to move ahead with any kind of clear vision.

I know a clever writer who had one of her characters say something very useful about resentment, & how much good it is for us.

“Holding onto a resentment is like taking rat poison & waiting for the rat to die.” (Author Anne Lamott, in her novel Crooked Little Heart.)

This is so true.

All this “Oh poor me” stuff we do is so absurd & pointless!

As for that hoped-for future, I don’t know about you, but I can’t seem to keep my life “under control” for more than about two minutes. The phone rings. The cat barfs! The roof leaks. The doorbell rings. The computer crashes. A loved one gets sick. And all my careful plans go “off the rails.”

Time after time after time, this hard lesson is brought home to me.

I know I’m determined to try harder to do my best to stay planted firmly in the present. In this moment.

One of my friends at the yoga course asked what sounded like a very philosophical question. “How long is now?” he asked. “It seems short, but also long.”

I thought about this for a moment & replied that “now” is actually infinitely small – & infinitely large, also.

Because, whether we grasp this or not, it’s now…now…now from here on in!


p.s. The paradox of staying “in the moment” (I’m noticing now, 2 years after I wrote this little essay, & after working at being in the moment more & more), is that it’s actually rather vast. It’s sort of infinite, almost – & also very charged with possibility.

p.p.s. It sure helps to read Pema Chödrön – an awesome coach on the wisdom of “staying present.” I highly recommend her books The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving Kindness and When Things Fall Apart – Heart Advice for Difficult Times. She is utterly brilliant!! One of those highly indispensable writers. Eckhart Tolle, too, unquestionably. Tolle tutorial here.

p.p.p.s. The Art of Living course was very good, btw. Some yoga & a powerful breathing technique – but plenty more besides. I came away feeling as though my emotional innards had been scrubbed clean. Go here to learn more. (There is also an item on this blog called ‘4 Great Opportunities for Personal Growth’ that you might find helpful.)

p.s. # 4: 'Quote of the day' used with this post: “There is only one courage, and that is the courage to go on dying to the past. Not to collect it, not to accumulate it, not to cling to it. We all cling to the past, and because we cling to it we become unavailable to the present.” – Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh