I think the first step in learning to be in the now is attaining some level of consciousness. Consciousness is another of those concepts that I learned about a long long time ago and thought was a good idea but really didn't have a clue.
What is consciousness? Let me try to explain what I know of consciousness today.
Consciousness for me begins with being aware of myself.
Consciousness of Thought
Am I being conscious of what I am thinking? Too often I react or have reacted to base emotions. I feel anger so I lash out, I feel jealous so I pout, I feel fear and I retreat. I do these things without even thinking about them or recognizing the anger, jealousy and fear. I don't stop and say "I feel angry" or "I am afraid" because I don't even realize it. Why would one not realize such a strong state of emotion? We are conditioned to react rather than to think. If I were confronted with a life and death situation in the wild, I'd need to react instinctually and instantaneously. Although I live a very rural life close to the land, I have been in life and death situations on very few occasions. Therefore, I don't have to react instinctually, but when I do I often end up hurting others or myself.
If I stop before I react or open my mouth and ask myself "What does this feel like? What emotion are you dealing with here?" my response becomes tempered or better yet, I can have no response.
Being aware of my emotional state will almost always explain why I am thinking the way I am. It will lead me to examine why I am reacting emotionally. If I am feeling anger, I can become aware of what emotion is driving that anger. Then I can become aware of what sparks that emotion inside of me. My reactions and emotions are never a result of what YOU are doing to ME. They are always a result of what I am doing to MYSELF. I can use you as an excuse for my behaviors, but it all comes down to my feelings and my emotions.
Consciousness of Action
How many times have I blurted out some simple declaration without thinking about the consequences, let alone my own self centered motivation.
"Well, he pissed me off" or "she really hurt me" always seems to be the justification for my hurtful and often brutal remarks. I attack without consciousness.
If I stop and consider my thoughts, consider my feelings and emotions and ultimately, consider my actions before I react, my world becomes much better place. If I think before I react, I will almost never alienate people. If I think before I react I will almost never hurt those I love.
I must think before I react.
Consciousness of Others
Once I become conscious of my own feelings and actions, I can become conscious of other's feelings and actions on a level beyond its effect on me. Becoming conscious of myself gives me the ability to be conscious of others. I can have an appreciation for why they might be reacting the way they are and what they might be feeling. When I am conscious of others, the things they do and say take on a whole new meaning. I am no longer effected on a base level by their sometimes hurtful remarks and actions. I can begin to feel compassion for others when I might otherwise have felt distain, resentment or disgust. By understanding myself, I understand others.
I want peace in my life. I don't want to feel anger. I don't want to live in fear. I don't want to let resentment eat me from the inside out.
The only way I know how to prevent all that is to become conscious of myself and of others.
Consciousness of Being
Not just my being, but all that is. The world is a wonderful place. It really is. No matter where you are, no matter who you are, there are things going on around you that are natural, right and beautiful. If I am paying attention to the world outside myself as it really exists I can see those things.
If I am thinking about what I'm going to do tomorrow or how I'm going to get the next thing I want, if am contemplating revenge, if I am replaying some past event or conversation over and over in my head and going through the useless exercise of how it should have happened or how I want it to happen, I am totally unconscious of the things around me.
How can I see the beauty of the world when I'm not looking for it and locked into the past or future?
I can not. What I see does not exist when I am looking at the past or future.
What I see, often doesn't exist when I am constantly judging and interpreting the things I see around me. How can I really listen to a bird sing if I am obsessed by the thought of how beautiful the bird and its song is.
I want to live in reality, therefore I have to view the world around me as it really is without judgement, without constant analysis and without interpretation.
It simply is what it is.
When I accept the world around me as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment in time, I am able to deal with it much better equipped than before.
Be conscious of yourself, others, and all of that which surrounds you.