For the past several decades there’s been considerable focus on living in the “now.” Many books have been written on the subject and most spiritual disciplines address the concept in one way or another. Eastern religions point us to living in the present through meditation and rituals. Western religions seek the experience through prayer and devotional reading. Many teachers tackle the subject in their writings. Ekhart Tolle does so in “The Power of Now” and Ram Dass addresses it in his book “Be Here Now.” Sydney Banks, in his book entitled “The Missing Link,” talks about “living in the now.” From the simple yet profound perspective of his teaching it becomes quite clear what’s meant by the “now.” He describes it as the state in which the personal mind is free from memories of the past or fears of the future. It’s our natural default setting when we’re taking our thinking lightly.
The problem with the “now” comes from the fact that we’re not always aware of or present to it. Have you ever noticed, when travelling somewhere, that you can be almost at your destination and yet completely unaware of the past several miles. Your mind has been wandering. Your thoughts were not in the moment.
When we’re in the moment we’re not thinking about the past or the future. We’re simply attentive to what we’re doing. For example, when we’re touched by the beauty of a sunset or a painting, or when we’re moved by a baby’s smile or a loved one’s voice we’re living in the now.
What happens, all too often, is that our thoughts wander. Perhaps when we’re touched by a sunset we might be reminded of another sunset in the past that was shared with a lost love and we feel sad. Or we might think of a sunset that accompanied a hilarious beach party when we were in our teens and we feel amused. In either situation we are drawing an experience from the past and giving it life through a thought. This will happen from time to time. It’s inevitable and part of our humanity. It would be impossible, I believe, to live constantly in the moment. What we can do, though, is become aware of what we’re doing, of where our thinking is taking us. We can see our thinking as the source of our feeling.
We have the amazing gift to choose where we’ll go with that thought. We can catch ourselves in our moment to moment creation and decide whether we want to make an elaborate web out of a single thought or simply let it go.
A group of us were passing a church recently and noticed the sign which read “Each day comes only once in a lifetime.” We might take it even further and say that each moment comes only once in a lifetime. How many moments are we willing to miss in the service of past events remembered or future events imagined? The answer is, as few as possible!