The past week has been interesting. It is the first time I have put all my effort into living in the present moment. One thing that became obvious at the outset was the ego’s desire to try to control the future.
One thing that I have been concerned about over the past year is the role of goals; specifically long-term goals. I think many people are concerned about “what they are going to do when they grow up”. This has been an issue for me for the last twenty years. Not the whole time. Only when I felt that my career was something other than it should be.
I have determined that living in the present moment will give me the clarity I need for every decision that needs to be made. My concern about things being taken care of in the future is exactly not living in the present. I have been around long enough to look back and see that things have always worked out. On the other hand, the times when I have been unclear about my career have been the most frustrating stages in my life because I was trying to make something happen.
I have decided that I am going to take a huge leap of faith and allow the future to unfold as it will without attempting to control it. Career-wise, that means that I will continue to do what I am doing until I receive a clear and specific indication that I should be doing something different.
Several months ago I believed that I needed to use the “law of attraction” to create the perfect career, and life for myself. During that time, I was more frustrated than I had been in years because I was always discontent with the present and looking to the future for salvation and fulfillment. As soon as I stopped focusing on what I thought I needed, I felt better. During that time there was always something kind of telling me that I needed to let go. I was glad when I finally did. On top of that, I enjoyed my job a lot more, realizing that it is totally suited to my personality and interests.
I am not concerned about the future…mine or anyone else’s. I am taking each moment as it comes and learning to be more aware of each one. Walking that razor’s edge is difficult, but so far, it is definitely worth it.
My time at work yesterday made for an interesting exercise in the pursuit of living in the present. I started my morning by spending some time in meditation with the only goal being to pay attention to the present moment. As I went to work I tried to slide what I had been doing at home to my job, even as I was driving there. I was fortunate that for the first few hours, there was not much going on. Before, I would have been upset over this because I would have been bored. Yesterday it was perfect. There was little enough happening that I was able to use the time in an effort to be in the present moment.
There were a few times where I felt like I would rather be doing something else, but I just accepted that I felt that way and allowed it to be part of what was happening. At first I really didn’t notice anything special, but after a while, I felt like I was part of the day. I don’t know how else to describe it. As I was able to focus on the present, I experienced things that I never have since I started working there four years ago. I heard conversations and sounds from people working and for lack of a better way to put it, the simple rhythm of store. After a couple of hours I had this feeling like everything was just right. I felt like I was anchored or grounded. Like I was standing on a solid foundation.
Since I haven’t been doing this long, I had a recurring concern that I would forget to try and be in the present. Fortunately, I had my trusty alarm watch going off several times an hour to remind me. At this point, I hope that my desire, as well as my ability to remember to be in the present will grow stronger and not fade away, but I know that all that matters is that I am trying to do it right now.
It was when I got off work and went home that I was not able to focus so well. I went from the semi-structure of my job to the “freedom” of being off and things got a little out of control. On one hand, I had been trying to focus all day, and it was becoming challenging as the day wore on. That was on top of my lack of experience in trying to focus on the present in the workplace. I believe that shifting back to the present will become easier as I become more experienced. On the other hand, no longer being in a structured environment brought the special challenge of deciding what I was going to do with my time, doing it, and trying to do it with presence of mind. Ultimately, I felt as though I did not pay attention as well in the evening, but I do believe I will be able to do this more successfully with practice.
Speaking of practice, I noticed something new as I spent time meditating this morning. For the first time, I noticed what feels like a shift between being in the present and being taken away by the mind that is concerned with time (past/future). I could feel myself shifting back and forth throughout the meditation time. It was really strange, but every time I brought myself back to the present, it felt like clouds were clearing away. This phenomenon was helpful in understanding that salvation or right living, whatever, is not something that you are preparing for that will take place in the future, but is merely a shift in perception and is always immediately available.
I am my experience. What I experience is me. I understand now that there is no separation. Now if I can only have the presence of mind to be aware of the experience. That is really the issue. I am so concerned about what happened to me and what I am going to do that I forget to live right now. And thus, I miss life.
There is nothing aside from living life. The best thing I can hope for is to be aware of what I is going on in my life. In the past few days I have come to understand this. Every true discipline (not religion) intends to help a person to be aware of the present. Everything else is worthless.
A couple of days ago something came to my mind that told me I needed to go back to the book “The Power Of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. I had been annoyed by this book before because when I listened to Tolle I thought his calmness was just pretending, but mostly, because I just didn’t understand what the book was teaching. But this time…it made sense. I was at a point where I could understand it. In fact, it was as though something was telling me I had to read it.
And it all came together. It’s like everything I had previously read (over the past 30 years!) about Zen, A Course In Miracles, and a few other things plopped down into place and made sense. It is about paying attention to the present moment. Living life now. Realizing that we are not separate from everything, but it all melts together into our unique, amazing (boring) experience of life. I said “boring” because it seems that way until we pay attention.
Now the challenge, and this is daunting: get my mind to shut the hell up.
I have already started working on this. Funny how meditation makes a lot more sense now. I see how practicing (zazen) is really helpful. It’s a lot easier to try to pay attention when there are few distractions compared to, say, being at work when there are a hundred things happening at once. But I can see that the more successful you are at reminding yourself to pay attention to the present in a calm situation, the easier it will be to remember the rest of the time.
I was off work yesterday and I spent the whole day attempting to pay attention to the present moment. I could definitely tell a difference. I was not concerned about the day going by too quickly or slowly. In fact, since I didn’t have as much silliness rolling through my mind the whole time, for the first time in a while, the day didn’t seem like it sped past without my realizing it. I didn’t really want to waste time watching television. Actually, par of me did want to watch tv, but I felt like there were better things I could be doing, if nothing other than sitting and having a cup of coffee. The whole day became sort of a “let’s pay attention” session. I really hope I can build on this.
But I know how I am. At first, things are easy and I get excited about them. Often, though, that initial excitement wears off and I slip back into my old ways. This time, though, I know I’ve really hit on something. I mean REALLY hit on something. This is everything. I know it will be a challenge, but I am so ready for it. Just figuring this out was the major challenge. Now I can commit to what really matters.
I never thought I would say this but everything is perfect and nothing needs to be changed. I do not need to save anyone. I only need to realize that I can accept things and people exactly as they are and that I do not need to change anything.
While I was at work yesterday I realized I don’t need to be anywhere but where I am. If I feel bored with work, then it is the right time to feel bored and I just do that. If I feel hungry, then it is the right time to feel hungry. If I am amused by something that happens then the timing of that amusement is perfect.
The people I come in contact with; the situations I encounter; the feelings I feel…are exactly what they should be. This life is like a book or a movie, but it is so much more than that. It’s like virtual reality cubed. Everything has gone from a flat screen to 3D, literally! I have never felt so free and secure in my life. Stupid, mundane stuff is interesting and exciting now. I understand more about living in the present because you find that you no longer need to look to the future for anything. The past holds nothing because the present is so intriguing.
The only time I have ever felt this way before was after having my reality artificially “enhanced”. But this doesn’t go away. This lasts, and without hangovers. Time doesn’t really matter because now has everything. There is nothing to look forward to. The present could not possibly be any more full.
I don’t have to save you because you are already saved…and safe. I see now that there are no mistakes. It is all just right.
Possibly the most frustrating part life recently has been dealing with a lack of self-confidence. Actually, ACIM would write it: Self-confidence. Lack of confidence has been the method the ego has used more than any other to successfully undermine any spiritual progress I might make.
One of the reasons I was so drawn to Norman Vincent Peale’s work on positive thinking years ago is that it inspired my confidence. Actually, I now understand that it helped me get to a place where I was in touch with the reality that God lives through me. Up to that time, I didn’t realize I had a problem with lacking confidence. In retrospect, it is easy to see that I did. Throughout the years, the ego has been able to hide this lack of confidence from my conscious mind very successfully. That has caused me to doubt my connection to God and others. In a plainer sense, it has worked to make me uncomfortable around others and uncomfortable in the world in such a way that I would have an anger simmering below the surface, ready to lash out. Often I didn’t even realize that the anger was there until something would arise that would jostle my perfect day and even mood.
I have noticed that The Course spends a lot of time helping us remember that we are the Son Of God and that we lack nothing. Somehow, that has failed to inspire me from time to time. In chapter 4 of the text, I read this today: “The result of genuine devotion is inspiration, a word which properly understood is the opposite of fatigue. To be fatigued is to be dis-spirited, but to be inspired is to be in the spirit.” I realized that in the past week (not to mention many other times), my sense of inspiration has flagged. I have had some truths revealed to me lately; important ones, but it is as though the ego had to use my lack of inspiration to counter that. Instead of enjoying those recent revelations, I have sunk back into a state where I lack self-confidence.
It seems that I always come across the right teaching at the right time with ACIM and things just seem to fall into place. I came across the words I quoted earlier at about the same time as I read in the teacher’s guide what the day of a teacher is like. It pointed out the importance of beginning the day in the right way, i.e. in a way that you are inspired to continue through the day in communion with God and others. So, starting today, I will begin the day with enthusiasm and inspiration as a reminder that this is my life and my world and I am one with the Creator. I don’t know if I’ll actually use the Peale stuff, but I will take the same frame of mind that will help me get to a place where I am confident in Who I Am.