Living Now – Part I

by Stephen Mills on June 4, 2009

Joy of Being Present

This series of articles may say some things to you that you’ve never thought about before.  If so, then welcome to something really special!  I suspect many of you will find what is said here to be something you’ve heard before and might even agree with on an intellectual level.

Here are the other parts to the series:

Living Now – Part II
Live Now – Part III

Whether this is new to your or not, this series of articles is a plea to you to do more than just accept these ideas intellectually.  Whenever I hear these ideas, I say to myself something like “That’s great; I’m going to really do it.”  Maybe I do for a bit, but I usually find myself slipping back into old habits that seem to never die.  I know these ideas work because I have experienced something wonderful when I practice them.  The problem is I seem to never fully internalize them and keep it going.

This stuff is hard because it is not natural to people who live in our modern world.  I’m willing to bet that most of you who think you live in the now much of the time, really don’t.  You only think you do because you are not aware most of the time.  You mind is churning away and you don’t realize it.

As a non-stop thinker, I originally found these ideas impossible to believe.  Eventually I suspended my disbelief and gave them a try.  That may have been the best decision I’ve ever made.

You will see extensive quoting of Eckhart Tolle in what follows.  I don’t agree with everything he says especially when he gets really philosophical.  However, regardless of what he actually believes, his practical advice is unsurpassed in my opinion.

Your Mind is a Tool.  It is Not You

Your mind is an instrument, a tool.  It is there to be used for a specific task, and when that task is completed, you lay it down.  –Eckhart Tolle

Sentences like that used to have me screaming “Bullshit!”, but not anymore.  Lay it down?  You have to understand what that really means.

As it is, I would say 80% to 90% of most people’s thinking is not only repetitive and useless, but because of its dysfunctional and often negative nature, much of it is also harmful.  … It causes a serious leakage of vital energy.  –Eckhart Tolle

If you get caught up in non-stop thinking you will go mad in a way.  I’ve spent most of my life in that condition.  You will find that no matter what your intent, if you constantly think, you will dwell on the past, worry about the future, and quite simply forget to actually live; really live.  You will do exactly what Tolle says and think repetitive and useless or harmful thoughts.  This will happen automatically no matter what your intent.  That bold phrase is the key.  I can’t prove it to you, but it’s simply the way your mind works.

One of the keys of cognitive therapy is to recognize that you are not your thoughts.  They are nothing more than thoughts that you can observe and choose to put aside.  You are not your thoughts and therefore you are not your mind.

We all need to start using our mind as a tool for our practical decisions, when it is required, and then lay it down.  The rest of the time we need to experience the now and really live.  I can’t believe I’m saying that because it is so not what I would have called “me” for the last 47 years.  But it works in a way that you have to experience to believe and so I suggest you try it.  If you accept it intellectually, then commit to really internalizing and living that way.  I am committing to do so.

Yes, we need the mind as well as time to function in this world, but there comes a point where they take over our lives, and this is where dysfunction, pain, and sorrow set in.  –Eckhart Tolle

The Present Moment, the Now is the Key

Your life will change to the degree you start living in the present moment.  No matter what situation you find yourself in, notice how constantly sitting in judgment of the situation creates pain and unhappiness?

Are you stuck behind rude people who drive the same speed across multiple lanes and trap you?  This seems to happen to me all the time and is a source of unending irritation.  I judge them to be idiots and rude and create anger and unhappiness for myself.  Did it change the situation?  No.  This is insanity.  I could actually be enjoying the drive, enjoying my life, and living in the now.  This is an example where thinking is repetitive, useless, or just plain harmful.  Yet it is something most of us do whether we are aware of it or not.

Notice all the things you think about that make you unhappy.  You complain about people in general, your health, the government, your neighbor, your co-workers, or anything else about your life situation.  When you do that, you are living in a past that is already over and done with.  You don’t get a do-over.  You are not learning from it when you complain about it.  You are reliving it and prolonging the pain.  You are polluting those around you as well.

Time is mostly an illusion.  The past is a memory happening in the now and the future is a projection of the now into a possible future.  Nothing happens except in the present.  When you are not living in the now, you are trapped in a memory or in an anticipation.

… the Now.  That is precious indeed.  The more you are focused on time – past and future – the more you miss the now, the most precious thing there is.

So break the old pattern of present-moment denial and present-moment resistance.  Make it your practice to withdraw your attention from past and future when they are not needed.  Step outside of the time dimension as much as possible in everyday life.

This does not impair your ability to use time – past or future – when you need to refer to it for practical matters.  Nor does it impair your ability to use your mind.  In fact it enhances it.  When you do use your mind, it will be sharper, more focused

–Eckhart Tolle

If you can really internalize and practice the above, you will discover something life changing.  I’ve done it briefly and then forgot about it as my old habits reemerge.  To be life changing you can’t just do this occasionally.  It needs to be your normal state with only occasional visits to the past and to the future.  Let it go and really live.

To be continued…

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills June 4, 2009 at 10:24 am

Hey Stephen,

Personally, I think this is one of the most powerful articles you have written. Our modern world actually conditions us away from the moment and puts greater emphasis on the future and the past. The past is over, the future may or may not happen, we only have the now. What a shame it would be to miss it!

Jonathan – Advanced Life Skills´s last blog post..Where Does Disappointment Come From?

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Roger | A Content Life June 4, 2009 at 12:22 pm

Stephen,

I agree with everything you’ve written. Oddly, it sounds similar to what I’ve read about Buddhism. Buddhism goes further and argues that all thoughts are delusion – they’re in some way a distortion of reality. In fact, it argues that your concept of self is delusional as well, but I digress.

The problem is how do you live in the now. Maybe that is what your next post is about. I’ve found that meditation is the best way for me to calm my mind and be present.

Roger | A Content Life´s last blog post..Meditation for Beginners (Week 5) – Walking Meditation

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Robin Easton June 4, 2009 at 1:37 pm

For me, staying only in this moment is a living meditation. I use it all the time. It allows the world to swirl around me as it will while I stay calm and aware of the light slanting through my office window, the sound of rain on the roof, my sweethearts voice, my love of nature, and the true purpose of my life, which is to not miss a moment of this glorious journey.

Having been in several very stressful situations, I eventually learned that the way to maintain self and peace was to not be ANYwhere other than right now in this moment. And to keep returning to this moment. Over and over again. It works. We can learn to do this. What eventually happens is time slows way down until we realize it does not exist. We also start to see what’s truly important to us, and much of what we “think” is important, almost ALL of what we think is important is drivel, imaginary, not even real, conditioned, an illusion.

I also learned that I can let go and I am infinitely safe, the world doesn’t come to an end. Everything goes on as planned. But there is time for me to choose, feel, sense, remember who I am, etc. It is is indeed a glorious place.

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Vin | NaturalBias.com June 4, 2009 at 6:10 pm

Great article Stephen! I’m a non stop thinker too and also find myself falling into old habits. I totally agree with the second quote by Tolle that most thinking is useless, repetitive and dysfunctional.

Not only am I a non stop thinker, but I’m also a deep thinker, so if I head down a bad path, it’s not always so easy to get back to the “now.” I find that reframing negative thoughts is an excellent combination with trying to live in the moment. I often have to find positivity in a negative situation before I can truly let it go and shift my focus to the immediate moment.

Vin | NaturalBias.com´s last blog post..How to Defeat Mood Disorders through Diet

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Stephen Mills June 4, 2009 at 9:05 pm

Sorry guys, I’m not very talkative in comment responses this week. I’m trying to live in the now on my vacation. LOL

@Jonathan, thanks for the endorsement. You’re so right about it being a shame to miss it. This week has been very easy for me to be present. Nature does that for me and I think most other people as well.

@Roger, I’m going to discuss ways in later articles, but I do think it is something people have to sort of figure out for themselves. I read a bunch of stuff by other people and I really didn’t get it very well.

@Robin, incredible commentary! I love everything you wrote but particularly this: “I also learned that I can let go and I am infinitely safe, the world doesn’t come to an end. Everything goes on as planned.” How true! I’ve discovered the same thing. The earth does not stop spinning when I let something go :-) Usually when we stop trying to do everything, most things get better.

@Vin, you remind me of myself :-) My wife calls me obsessive and refers to my “phases”. By that she means that once I get interested in something I take it to the nth degree.

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Felicity June 5, 2009 at 3:43 am

Our incentive by the good in us may want to moralize the current unwanted circumstances, to bring a phenomenal positive change. This change cannot live in permanence. It’s very true that if we are in the wont of delivering change, we can sustain the state of daily fulfillment. We lay the failure by occluding the realistic understanding while we allow it to happen. Strong sentiments tend to incite forgetfulness. However, things come to materialize in real form as we assess them. So, coming here and reading this, all the expressions made in this articles are felt. I am here and can perceive my existence in the present. It is nothing but the truth one cannot move away from. I can’t wait to read the next part of this brilliant article.

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Vin | NaturalBias.com June 5, 2009 at 6:35 am

“My wife calls me obsessive and refers to my “phases”. By that she means that once I get interested in something I take it to the nth degree.”

LOL! Anything worth doing should be done to the fullest, right? :) My wife is so opposite from me in this regard that it took me almost 10 years to convince her that I didn’t have some type of obsessive disorder! Although, I think the fact that we are such opposites in this manner is part of the reason why we get along so well!

Vin | NaturalBias.com´s last blog post..The Forgotten Path to Health and Happiness

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Dragos Roua June 5, 2009 at 2:47 pm

That’s a great post idea, Stephen, and I’m really looking forward to it.

I totally agree with that thinking energy leakage. Is not only Eckhart who’s saying that, Don Miguel Ruiz also have some fantastic analogies here, one of them being: “be impeccable with your thoughts”, which means treat your thoughts with respect, don’t abuse them, don’t over use them.

A restless mind is usually a sign of a hurt soul.

Dragos Roua´s last blog post..The Spiral Path

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Derrick July 3, 2009 at 5:09 pm

Eckhart Tolle,yes,a very powerful pressence he is,in my opinion second to none. The reality of his teachings often appear unrealistic and far fetched because it is not the “norm” of what we have been taught our whole life. Being concious of our inner space and moment to moment awareness is not the “quick fix” type of answers people want. It’s really hard to deny the “backround static” you refered to in your most recent article. Your inner alignment is a must for your outer to make sense and fall into place.

Thank you for all your excellant articles,I always enjoy them.

Derrick

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