The past is gone; the future has not yet arrived. “Live the present! Flow with life!” claim many personal growth prophets. Such recommendations make sense, don’t they? But what a piece of useless advice! As much as we try, it is not possible to fasten us to our ‘now’ or to flow on purpose around our ‘here’. Is there a way to attain such attractive qualities?
The issue is complicated, mmm… Correction, it is rather simple but we have made it difficult. The problem does not seem related with our body, which is always here; instead the issue is with the super-restless mind that roams around everywhere. Our brain constructs time –past, present, and future; yesterday, today, tomorrow– as a survival mechanism for the whole body.
While time depends upon our mind, space is the actual territory where the body moves around. But, since the mind is a function of the brain and this is an organ of the body, the mind-body dichotomy results inappropriate. This is the root of the problem. If we integrate body and mind, or better yet, if we realize that mind and body are one indivisible entity… Such entity, as a whole, will flow.
The present resides in the whole body, where we perceive our sensations, and that includes the brain where mental states manifest. What do we have to do to be in the present? We must stay tuned to three items: to the motions and postures of the body (fast, slow, uncomfortable, comfortable…), to our sensations (pleasant, unpleasant, neutral…) and to our mental states (focused, disperse, biased, impartial, happy, sad…). Being in the now is looking inwards, not poking about outwards.
The perception of the now may be exercised through permanent mindfulness. As we observe our distracted mind, we are taking it down to earth, even if distractions are sorrows from yesterday or illusions for tomorrow. If the mind runs away, regardless direction or timing, the observation of the flight happens here and now.
Living in the present has much more to do with being attentive to what is distracting us than with trying to chain us to the here and now. If we feel greed or envy, we look at the experience of the unwarranted cravings. If we feel gluttony or lust, we notice how these are manifesting in our body. What happens to us in the very second that is happening, in the next one, and the one that follows, such is the instant experience, the one we are just going through. We will never enjoy what we already have, if we are yearning for what we lack.
As a further aid, the silent and impartial observation of our breath is an excellent exercise that reinforces the faculty of attention, and a viable alternative that lands us in the now. Being aware can only happen in the present.
Are these recommendations easy to follow? Easy to understand, yes. Its permanent application, however, demands much patience and dedication. Mindfulness meditation is an intensive exercise to appease our ramblings and, yet, while we meditate, our mind may run away… Sometimes we don’t even realize where to it has flown or for how long it has been gone. These unwilling escapes are nothing else but good reasons for perseverance.
By being mindful of our body, our sensations and our mental states, our mind stays in real time. When this happens, our life flows spontaneously. It is impossible to flow on purpose by avoiding the present. We cannot float upstream. Cravings and aversions take us out of the calm waters where we may just drift on and let go. Being here and now is more about being aware of the distractions that are scattering our mind than on fastening the present moment down through extreme willpower.
Atlanta, October 30. 2016