Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Say hello to the present

Embrace the now.

As I grow older I begin to consider what is really important. It's much easier to do when one has a lifetime of experience.
Lately I've been thinking about a concept that I learned decades ago but was never able to comprehend. Perhaps nobody explained it to me in a simple form that my mind could understand. I will try.

We all spend a lot of time thinking about the past and contemplating the future. We might think about the good times we had in the past or the pain we suffered or others suffered. We look to the past as justification for our actions and we look to the future for salvation from our pain or past deeds. Either is a waste of time. We only have the present. The past and future do not exist. They never have.
But SagaciousOne, I was there. I saw those things happening. I felt the experience.
You were not in the past, you were in the now. You felt those thing in the now; in the present. It was the present. Nothing has ever happened in the past or future. There is only the now. The past is a memory in your mental database and the future is mere speculation or projection.
When your mind is always busy thinking about the past and the future, you are missing what is happening now around you.

I once spent some weeks hiking and canoeing with a Peruvian native woman who was a guide on the Amazon and in the Andes. She told me she didn't understand Americans because they would be sitting on a boat gliding through the Amazon jungle or riding on some mountain trail with vast vistas and they'd be listening to their WalkMan and reading a book.
I really loved traveling the river and walking the woods with Amelia. She would look, listen and feel rather than talk. She also didn't understand why, after having spent weeks in America and years around Americans she knew nothing of the natural beauty in America that I was showing her. "Why are so many Americans in therapy when they have all this" she would ask me.
She was in the now. She understood that it was all we really have.

Therapy is a wonderful thing. I've enjoyed it's benefits at times, but there comes a point when we enter a bottomless pit of self discovery uncovering every little event and consequence of our lives. If we are totally present in the now, what difference does it make why our anger drives us. What difference do the actions of our fathers or mothers decades before matter? Be conscious or where you are, what you are doing, what is going on around you and your reactions to those things, but don't react. Just observe and note. If we are conscious of our now and ourselves within it, those actions that are driven by unconscious pain can not control us. Accept what is and is happening. There is little you can do about any of it. It simply is what is happening in the now. You can do one of three things about the things around you, you can accept it and watch it unfold, you can accept it and remove yourself from it or you can accept it and try to be a positive influence upon it. Anything else is pure insanity that will at best have no effect and at worse, have tragic results. I walk away from almost all things that I find irritating to my now.

We spend countless hours thinking of what will be or what has passed. If you are like me, you can sometimes carry on conversations in your head the way you wished things had transpired during some event or conversation you had decades ago. Or, you can spend hours contemplating conversations you might have when this or that event finally arrives. Maybe you spend days fantasizing about how some experience is going to look or feel when it finally arrives only to find that when the experience does arrive it is nothing as you'd planned or imagined. And when that experience or event does arrive, it lasts but a few minutes or even seconds, but you have spent the past week, month or year worrying about or anticipating its arrival.

Enjoy where you are right now. Do you have any problems right now? Probably not. You have the luxury of sitting in front of your computer reading this. You have no problems right now. You may have situations that you will need to deal with tomorrow or the next day or even an hour from now, but they are not happening now. Most things outside ourselves that cause us grief or pain are very short lived events which we can do little to change. Enjoy where you are right now at all times.
When you are driving your car, drive your car. When you are taking a bath, take a bath. When you are having sex, simply have sex. Don't go off into some never neverland where you think things will be better or brighter. It never is. The best and brightest is right here where you are now. Experience life in the now.
Open your eyes and ears to what is, now. Embrace your now.


MacDaddy said...

"Experience life in the now."
Sagacious: That's it. Too many of my friends are so busy, to enjoy the now. They even glorify their behavior. They call "multi-tasking." Later, my female multi-tasker will come to me and others (especially me, since I was a counselor for a long time) and complain that their husband is ignoring her. Or male multi-tasker male friends will talk about the relationship not being the same, that they don't pay attention to each other like they did when they first got married.

Sagacious, they know about working in the present, but they don't know about what living in the now is. Does that make sense?

rainywalker said...

Excellent. Doctor Zambardo has a paper out on how we live our lives. We do everything based on the past, present or future or a combination of the three. But by far the best one was to live in the present. Otherwise you will wake one day to find your time is all used up. The past is gone, the future to come and you are in the present. You set in a rocking chair with this look or stare and have nothing to draw on in your mind.
Yes that makes sense. It is like the story I tell about a professor who ask his students "how long have you lived?" One student said he was 21 years old. The professor told him, "I know how many times your heart has beat in 21 years, but I was looking for something more profound."

Hawa Bond said...

Excellent post. You took the tired cliche, "one day at a time," and turned it into something I really understand and connect with.

One of my favorite books is "Radical Honesty..." by Brad Blanton. He talks about "past experience" as a teacher - and his verdict is that past experience is not as useful as some make it. Making choices today requires a fresh set of eyes as opposed to bad lessons from the past.

I think of women who "hate men," and whites who "hate Blacks..." all usually a gross and useless generalization from a bad experience in the past.

Hawa, author of
Fackin Truth Blog (Personal Blog)
Cleanse Master Remix (Health Blog)

SagaciousHillbilly said...

Daddy, Yes, that makes sense. Many of them are working for the future and thinking way beyond the now.
"multitasking. . . " you can't multitask and be in the now.

Rainy, I'll look into this "Doctor Zambardo.'

Hawa, I found "Radical Honesty" to be "brutal honesty." I thought the appooach was arrogant and self righteous. Sorry.
I don't have to tell my wife that the dress she likes does in fact make her look fat. There is absolutely no reason for me to do that.
"You look lovely" is fine and still honest.
Yes, "one day at a time" is about living in the now.
I gotta get over to your place more often. You always post good stuff.

Michael said...

If you are watching a film or reading a book are you living in the now or away in the themes and places in the film or book? If you are having a conversation with someone are you living in the now or are you concentrating on the conversation and all the myriad points that engross you? How is it possible to live in the now? Isn't it that our thoughts are an endless, irrepressible re-occurrence that takes us away to elsewhere.

rainywalker said...

The doctor also has a video out on the net and I will try and relocate it for you.

rainywalker said...

His name is Philip Zambardo and a video can be seen at:
[also on my blog on the right]
Scroll down to 12/15/08 12:18 am post "The Time Paradox."

SagaciousHillbilly said...

Michael, It does seem that way at times, doesn't it?
But no, our thoughts are not irrepressible and they are not endless. Have you ever been in a situation that required your complete and total attention? You weren't thinking of anything but the task at hand, were you? Have you ever been in a place in nature where all you could do was look about you and soak in all you are seeing or hearing? The natural beauty kept you from being distracted by anything kept thoughts from popping up from your mind. I was talking a deer recently through the snow with my gun and I was totally focused on the task. I listened to every part of every step I took and every breath I took and every movement the deer made. There was nothing else in my mind but what was happening in the now.
Consciousness and being in the now is about being at total attention to where you are. It's about only focusing on what you see, feel or hear.
It's sometimes called "being in the moment."
There were times when my children were very small that I was so filled with love and happiness that nothing could distract my attention away from them. That is a form of being in the now.
There are many times in life when we unknowingly are in the now. We tend to think of these times as wonderful moments.
I used to do daredevil things as a way of being in the now. When you are diving toward the Earth at 180mph in an airplane and you have to pull out of the dive in a precise and definite manner or risk dying, you are in the now. . . you have to be.
Being in the now in every day situation simply requires us to learn how to pay attention without letting our mind distract us. No one does it perfectly, but with practice we can get good at it.

Michael said...

Personally, I find that the more absorbed in things I am the more I lose myself so I am not around to be aware I am in the now, I am aware of the thing I am absorbed in which invariably has it own chronological agendas. In retrospect, I can say I was absorbed in the moment, but not at the time itself as that would have been a distraction from the subject matter. I have been trying to live in the moment for years, carpe diem quam minimum credula postero and all that, but have found it is difficult even to the point of impossibility other than in a general sense which is what I now make do with, yet even that is difficult. Take now for instance, my partner is away from me in another country and I miss her, so therefore do not view these days as complete until we are together again, so this is not a now I am happy to live in. Similarly, I recently had a work deadline to meet and couldn't quite settle in my mind until that was out of the way. Life spreads us out across other time zones. In my experience, that's how it is, unfortunately. Yet I agree with the principle and the struggle goes on! Thanks for your take on the business.