Be here now.
It’s such a simple phrase with simple words. Not one of them is more than one syllable. Collectively, they have fewer syllables than “awakening.” Yet for such a simple phrase, it causes such amazing consternation among many people walking the spiritual path. They may say, “What does that mean?” or “How can I do anything if I’m always focused on being present?” or “How can I plan for the future?”
In this way, the unconscious ego can be deeply triggered by this simple little truth, and it will go searching for all sorts of ways to keep your attention and continue to play its games.
The reality of this phrase–because it’s not a concept at all–is a doorway into our own natural divine presence and intelligence. There is nothing stupid, ungrounded, or inept about it. We ARE here now. But that is rarely where our minds like to stay. They rather wander off to some imaginary future or past event, and in so doing, they miss the real living and the extraordinary life right before them. If times are difficult, then we need all of our attention here and now to deal with the difficulty. Wishing things would go away or change doesn’t help us engage with them mindfully.
On this note, I felt like talking about this simple spiritual truth to help you understand how accessible it is and how much more happiness trusting in this truth can bring to you.
I often say to my students that there is a “knot” stuck in much of humanity, although it’s a knot without a “k.” That “not” needs to be untied. It is the core belief that sits inside most core issues, and that is the belief that “You are not okay.” You see that “not” sitting in there? Well that naughty little not causes people to do all kinds of things to try and make themselves feel better. They try drugs. They try sex. They try finding a perfect job. They try spiritual retreats. But nothing can keep this “not” from rearing its ugly head again and again. It’s only when we address this belief and sit with it that we can start to unwind it and all the ways we’ve hogtied ourselves in the process of believing it and trying to feel better.
Until we address it, the ego mind is impelled by this core pain to constantly search. It’ll draw your mind’s attention to the past. It’ll draw your mind’s attention to the future. It’ll try to help you imagine things you do want and prepare for things you don’t want. We’re so used to it that we don’t even see any problems with this kind of thinking behavior. Thus, the commonality of this pain makes our suffering invisible to us until something dramatic happens–at least for most people. That’s why car wrecks, heart attacks, the loss of a loved one, and the occasional spiritual awakening are often the primary ways people turn to the spiritual path and get serious about their inner work. Until then, this myth that we can eventually find something external to us to make us feel better holds supreme.
Melting Into Awakening and Sitting With the “Not”
A spiritual awakening drops you right into the present moment. It’s the only place you ever are, and that is where awakening always is. This seems so simple, I know. But it is simple. That’s such an important thing to remember. In Western intellectual society, people place value on complicated mental ideas, but the spiritual path is not astrophysics! It simply is. It is right here, right now. All of you have access to this wonderful reality. It is the ground you’ve always been standing on but forgot about.
After awakening, you may feel like you crash landed on the ground. You may feel good. You may feel blissful for awhile, and then you may crash land. But the most important thing to remember is that you are going to discover what your reality actually is when your attention if brought fully into the here and now. If you have been harboring and hiding a lot of pain, you’ll find yourself surrounded by your unprocessed pain as well as your truth. The more pain you’ve avoided, the more challenging and upsetting it can be to heal after awakening. The more you let go and mindfully engage with what is shown to you, the more peaceful your process after awakening may be. It’s tough to generalize too much, but it is all helping you to address this concept that “you are not okay” and all the issues that make you believe that being here now is not what you want.
Coming to Peace With the Now
I have to emphasize that not all of life is enjoyable. Being a spiritual person does not prevent physical difficulties nor calamities from arising. How we embrace them in the present moment, however, can radically change. Part of coming to peace is seeing that whatever is here now is what is here now. It’s not a difficult concept. But how often do we like the present moment? Our ego need for the present moment to be different than it is is a massive problem. So, we have to learn how to let ourselves be here now, which is a bizarre thing to say.
Or rather, we start to retrain the brain to draw more attention to what is going on in this moment rather than in another imaginary moment. Any time you feel anxious about just sitting still or you get bored, consider that to be some old issues and old energy surfacing. This is why we practice meditation. It lets all this old energy bubble up. Meditation helps us drop deeper into ourselves where we can find the hidden issues that are bothering us. By like taking a thorn out from your butt, it is way easier to sit and be still. In this way, we come to see that we don’t have have any problem with the present moment. Primarily what we have a problem with is us.
Breaking Through to Deeper Peace
Sometimes I talk about peace in the sense of oneness. Sometimes, I talk about peace in the sense of the human experience. The more we move our attention to the oneness within us and the inherent peacefulness of that space, the more our human selves move towards human calmness and peacefulness. However, as I mentioned, being in the now tends to bring more attention to issues first. It is very normal to realize that you are not at peace when you think you are. This is a challenge for some of my students at times. They’ll tell me that they’re relaxed and peaceful at the start of a session, and then fifteen minutes in to breathing and relaxing, some kind of agitation is emerging. When we move through that agitation, then we can relax into an even deeper level of human peace that was invisible to us beforehand. In so doing, our inner work brings perspective on the reality of how peaceful, loving, and kind we really are.
Perspective is one of the opposites of ignorance. One aspect of ignorance is that we only know what we know, and that tends to be very limited. We generally do not realize that there are other ways to think about something beyond what we currently know. So dropping into deeper peace often shows you that you weren’t really peaceful before. This breeds humility in most people, and they start to understand that they don’t know themselves. They often begin to wonder what else is hiding in plain sight, and that tends to inspire deeper self-inquiry and healing. It really is easy to get started. All you have to do to access this self investigation is to bring more attention to this moment and allow yourself to really be here now.
Accessing Deeper Intelligence
It’s my general experience that human beings are really intelligent beings when they relax into the present moment. They begin to open up and see all kinds of opportunities and realities. It becomes obvious what needs their attention and how much doesn’t need any energy at all. The more you rest in the present moment, the more spontaneous intuition arises as well as the more clear you are about your current circumstances. For example, there could be a massive earthquake, but if you stay rooted in the present moment, you can better assess the situation and take action. The more you are stuck in the old ego mind, the more you are likely to be lost in fear, stuck in thoughts like “this shouldn’t be happening,” and all together reactive and erratic. An earthquake is a very serious event, and being able to be fully present to it is of utmost importance. But that is not what most people do unless they’ve had a ton of disaster management training. Even then, human fundamental issues–the fear of death and the fear of pain–can override even the most well-trained person’s ability to cope. Thus, we need to develop ourselves and practice focusing on the space of our divine presence to mindfully engage with intense events like this one. Once again, your regular spiritual practice is key.
The above is a rather extreme example, but it is not beyond any of you. In more regular day-to-day life, being here now is very tame. And that’s a good thing. Learn to draw your attention to the present moment in the easy times. Learn to deal mindfully with boredom and the issues that may arise when there is nothing wrong in your physical circumstances. This is like practicing in the batting cages. You have plenty of time to warm up and dissolve away issues before worrying about being thrust into a World Series event with tons of intensity like a major earthquake.
Additionally, this inner work will help you to get to know a smarter part of you. Your Divine self helps you to live intelligently and intuitively. Planning isn’t really needed, but your presence can use that tool as well as any other. All tools and options open up in the space of your presence. In the ego self, your options tend to be limited, and there tends to be a lot of ignorance that blinds you to opportunities both for greater joy and to attend to difficulty. So really, being present here and now puts you in a space that is best able to deal with anything
Simplicity and the Present Moment
Again and again, I can’t emphasize how simple this is. You are here now. Draw your mind’s attention back to this moment again and again. Take a few deep breaths, and relax again. You may begin to notice how the thinking mind can agitate the body in different ways. The more you relax into your body, the more enjoyable being here now is. In general, you may see how much of the discomfort of life is the discomfort caused by unconscious ego reactions within you. Being present in the now is the most important and only doorway to discover those reactions and unlearn them.
Unlearning truly is one of the most important parts of the spiritual path. Before running off to save the world, we have to learn how to save ourselves, and unlearning all the unhealthy issues and ways we interact is crucial. This inner work takes you on the journey to untie the knot/not stuck inside of many of you, and in so doing, the present moment naturally becomes more enjoyable. When there is no longer this core not/knot agitating and upsetting you, being here now is a joy, and it can become a wonder why you ever would have ever tried to run from this simple spiritual truth.