Most people in this world, even in waking state, while going through the motions of life, basically lack awareness. How many people, among billions on this planet are aware of the simple fact that each of us has two selves — one is “who we think we are” and the other is “who we really are?”
To be merely aware of this fact itself is a sign of progress on the spiritual path — a sign of Involution. After lives and lives of travel outwards — identifying with the not-Self — this is a giant leap back towards the center, the Real Self.
The beginning of freedom is the realization that we are not the possessing entity — the perceiver, feeler, thinker. Knowing this enables us to observe the entity. The moment we start watching the thinker, a higher level of consciousness becomes activated.
Instead of “watching the thinker” we can also create a gap in the mind stream simply by directing the focus of our attention into the present moment. We need to become intensely aware of the present moment. We need to have hundred percent presence in the present moment.
Living in the present means conscious action,
not mechanical movement.
Most of us live like zombies or robots, mechanically going through the motions of life.
For example, take the simple task of washing our hands. Are we there fully focused on this small task? Most of us will let the tap water run over our hands while we are looking somewhere else and the mind is thinking something else instead of being fully focused on washing our hands perfectly clean.
We have to make it a habit to ask ourselves: “What’s going on inside me at this moment?” That question will point us in the right direction. But we should not analyze, just watch. Focusing our attention within and feeling the energy of the emotion.
If there is no emotion present, we have to take our attention more deeply into the inner energy field of our body. It is the doorway into being.
We need to watch out for any kind of defensiveness within ourselves. What are we defending, an illusory identity, an image in our mind, a fictitious entity? By making this pattern conscious, by witnessing it, we dis-identify from it. In the light of our awareness, the unconscious pattern will then quickly dissolve.
This is the end of all arguments and power games, which are so corrosive to relationships. Power over others is weakness disguised as strength. True power is within and it is available to us now.
We need to realize deeply that the present moment is all we ever have. We have to make the now the primary focus of our life and cut out the past and the future.
Whereas, before we dwelt in time and paid brief visits to the present moment, we now have our dwelling place in the present moment and pay brief visits to past and future when required to deal with the practical aspects of our life situation. Our relationship with the past should be limited to the lessons learnt through events and experiences, and our relationship with the future should be limited to the short-term, mid-term and long-term goals that we set as well as plans for the immediate future. To accomplish those goals we need to work in the present.
We have to always say “yes” to the present moment to end the delusion of time and break the old pattern of present-moment denial and present moment resistance. This should be our practice, to withdraw attention from past and future whenever they are not needed. We need to step out of the time dimension as much as possible in everyday life.
Forgetting about our life situation for a while we must pay our attention to our life. (a) Our life situation exists in time. Our life is now. (b) Our life situation is mind-stuff. Our life is real.
We need to find the “narrow gate that leads to life”. It is called the present moment. We need to narrow our life down to this moment. Our life situation may be full of problems — most life situations are — but we need to find out if we have any problem at this moment — not tomorrow or in ten minutes, but now. Do we have a problem?
All Problems are the illusions of the mind. Focusing our attention on the present moment we must analyze what problem we have at this moment.
We need to ask ourselves: “Is there joy, ease, and lightness in what I am doing?” If there isn’t, then time is covering up the present moment and life is perceived as a burden or a struggle.
If there is no joy, ease, or lightness in what we are doing, it does not necessarily mean that we need to change what we are doing. It may be sufficient to change the how. “How” is always more important than “what”. What needs to be seen is if we can give much more attention to the doing than to the result that we want to achieve through it. We give our fullest attention to whatever the moment presents. This implies that we also completely accept what is, because we cannot give our full attention to something and at the same time resist it.
Not being concerned with the fruit or result of our action — we just give attention to the action. When our attention is on the fruits of action, we are not available fully in the present moment to perform the action perfectly, which will give the desired result in the future. Having set the future goal we have to work in the present moment.
Constant observation is required of the many ways in which unease, discontent, and tension arise within us through unnecessary judgment, resistance to what is and denial of the now.
Unawareness dissolves when we shine the light of awareness on it. Many of us appear to be conscious, but unaware.
We have to make it a habit to monitor our mental and emotional state through self-observation. “Am I at ease at this moment?” is a good question to ask oneself frequently, or one can ask: “What’s going on inside me at this moment?”
Wherever we are, we have to be there totally.
We are so busy getting to the future that the present is reduced to just a means of getting there. Stress is caused by being “here” but wanting to be “there,” or being in the present but wanting to be in the future.
The present moment is never unbearable if we live in it fully. What is unbearable is to have our body here at 10 a.m. and our mind at 6 p.m.; our body in Mumbai and our mind in New York. It’s a split that tears us apart inside.
Does the past take up a great deal of our attention? Do we frequently talk and think about it, either positively or negatively? The great things that we have achieved, our adventures and experiences or our victim story and the dreadful things that were done to us or maybe what we did to someone else?
Are our thought processes creating guilt, pride, resentment, anger, regret, or self-pity? Then we are not only reinforcing a false sense of self but also helping to accelerate our body’s ageing process by creating an accumulation of past in our psyche. We should verify this ourselves by observing those around us who have a strong tendency to hold on to the past.
Die to the past every moment. We don’t need it. It should be referred to only when it is absolutely relevant to the present. Feeling the power of this moment, we feel the fullness of Being. One feels one’s own presence completely.
If we are worried and if we have many “what if” thoughts, we are identified with our minds, which is projecting itself into an imaginary future situation and creating fear. There is no way we can cope with such a situation, because it doesn’t exist. It’s a mental phantom.
We can stop this health — and life — corroding insanity simply by acknowledging the present moment.
Respiration, among a few processes like pulse, takes place only in the present moment. From time to time we need to become aware of our breathing, feel the air flowing in and out of our nostrils and feel our inner energy field. All that we ever have to deal with, cope with, in real life — as opposed to imaginary mind projections — is this moment.
We can always cope with the now, but we can never cope with the future — nor do we have to. The answer, the strength, the right action, or the resource will be there when we need it, not before, not after.
Are we a habitual “waiter”? How much of our life do we spend waiting? “Small-scale or routine waiting” is waiting in line at the post office, in a traffic jam, at the airport or waiting for someone to arrive, to finish work and so on. “Large-scale waiting” is waiting for the next vacation, for a better job, for the children to grow up, for a truly meaningful relationship, for success, to make money, to be important, to become enlightened. “Large-scale waiting” is more like living in the future — day-dreaming — which doesn’t get us anywhere. To make our dreams a reality, we need to focus on what needs to be done in the present moment. It is not uncommon for people to spend their whole life waiting to start living.
Waiting is a state of mind. Basically, it means that we want the future; we don’t want the present. We don’t want what we have got and we want what we haven’t got. With every kind of waiting, we unconsciously create inner conflict between our here and now, where we don’t want to be and the projected future, where we want to be. This greatly reduces the quality of our life by making us lose the present.
For example, many people are waiting for prosperity. It cannot come in the future. When we honor, acknowledge and fully accept our present reality — where we are, who we are, what we are doing right now — when we fully accept what we have got, we are grateful for what we have got, grateful for what is, grateful for being. Gratitude for the present moment and the fullness of life now is true prosperity. It cannot come in the future. Then, in time, that prosperity manifests for us in various ways.
If we are dissatisfied with what we have got or even frustrated or angry about our present lack, that may motivate us to become rich, but even if we do make millions, we will continue to experience the inner condition of lack and deep down we will continue to feel unfulfilled. We may have many exciting experiences that money can buy, but they will come and go and always leave us with an empty feeling and the need for further physical or psychological gratification. We won’t abide in being and so feel the fullness of life now which alone is true prosperity.
Give up waiting. It is a state of mind. When we catch ourselves slipping into waiting…we have to snap out of it. We have to come into the present moment. We have to just be and enjoy being. If we are present, there is never any need to wait for anything.
These are just a few of the habitual mind strategies for denying the present moment that are part of ordinary unawareness. They are easy to overlook because they are so much a part of normal living: the background static of perpetual discontent. But the more we practice monitoring our inner mental-emotional state, the easier it will be to know when we have been trapped in past or future, which is to say when we have been ‘unconscious’ and to awaken out of the dream of time into the present.
But beware: The false, unhappy self, based on mind identification, lives on time. It knows that the present moment is its own death and so feels very threatened by it. It will do all it can to take us out of it. It will try to keep us trapped in time.
The more attention we give to the past, the more we energize it and the more likely we are to make a “self” out of it.
In a sense, the state of presence could be compared to waiting. It is a qualitatively different kind of waiting, one that requires our total alertness. Something could happen at any moment if we are not absolutely alert, absolutely awake, absolutely still, absolutely aware, we will miss it. In that state all our attention is in the now. There is none left for day-dreaming, thinking, remembering, anticipating. There is no tension in it, no fear, just alert presence. We are present with our whole Being, with every cell of our body.
In that state, the “I” that has a past and a future, the personality, is hardly there anymore. Yet nothing of value is lost. We are still essentially ourselves. In fact we are more fully ourselves than we ever were before or rather it is only now that we are truly ourselves.
The mind has a tendency to dwell in the past or wander into the future. The mind forges a chain to bind itself to the dead past or to an uncertain future, constantly avoiding the present.
Life is neither lived in the tomb of the dead moments of the past nor in the womb of the unborn moments of the future. Life is not a continuous procession of past regrets and future anxieties. Never ever live with regret. We cannot change a single moment of our past. Life is lived dynamically in the present. The present moment is all that we have at our disposal.
The mind should be freed from the past, which exists but as memory, and the future, which exists in imagination as worry — a mixture of fear and hope. Only the present is. It is a “present” from God. Reality is to love and respect our divine “present”. Present, we cannot be without.