The notion of being in the present moment forms the basis of so much wisdom and spiritual guidance. We hear it in Yoga class and read about it in books on meditation but putting theory aside, how does being in the present moment actually manifest itself in real life?
I wrote a post some time ago which focused mainly on the theory of being in the present moment and in this post I want to share with you some details of my past 24 hours and how I’ve finally managed to put some of this theory into practice. This post was inspired by an email I received from a reader called Tom who wanted to know my take on ‘embracing now’. When I got his email I wondered how I was going to explain my thoughts on the subject without some actual experience of the theory to back up my words. I didn’t have to wait too long.
When we open ourselves up to the idea of being in the present moment, I think that the universe aligns to present us with ample opportunities to practice that very idea and it does so exactly at times when we feel least able to do so. Yesterday saw me receive plenty of such opportunities.
At 2.50pm I stood at the side of the main street in Ubud waiting for the 3pm shuttle bus back to Kuta. I had been warned that it may be as late as 5 or 10 minutes because of traffic on the roads, so I wasn’t too concerned as 3 o’ clock came and went. I had also been told that the journey would take an hour and I’d planned my day accordingly.
I’d gotten up early to take a woman I’d met the day before to see the beautiful rice field vistas I’d myself discovered earlier that day. This gave me enough time to make a start on the days blog post before visiting Monkey Forest and having lunch before catching my 3pm bus. I figured that if I was to be back in Kuta by 4pm then I’d have plenty of time to stop off at a cafe with wi-fi to finish and publish my post before getting home to have dinner with the family I have living here in Bali.
As I waited patiently for the overdue bus, I felt undeniably smug at how much I was managing to cram into my day and still stick to my commitment of publishing every day in the month of July. By 3.25pm, my attitude had shifted, considerably. Familiar feelings of impatience, frustration and worry started to flood my mind and without thinking I had fast forwarded to a future that hadn’t even happened yet, as I imagined standing in the ticket booking office complaining angrily to the woman behind the counter about the no show.
Suddenly I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to see the driver waving a slip of paper with my name on it, “over here” he said as he beckoned to the mini bus I hadn’t even notice pull up beside me. Thank god I thought as I jumped into the front seat of the bus, glancing anxiously at my watch and recalculating that I’d be in Kuta by 4.30pm. My plans were still on track.
By 5.30pm I was back in the land of panic. The traffic had slowed to a virtual standstill while my mind was racing ahead to conversations I would have to excuse myself from dinner so that I could find somewhere to publish my, as yet, unfinished post. That’s when I remembered what I’d read months ago in a book called ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle. In he talked about worry being a projection of an imagined future and that when we focus on asking ourselves how we are doing in this present moment, then worry ceases to exist.
“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.”~ Eckhart Tolle
As I tried my hardest to focus on my present moment, I found I was able to calmly send a text to my Aunty explaining my predicament after which I sat back in my chair and looked out of the window and tried to take in as much of Bali as I could on my penultimate day on the island.
I got to a cafe near my Aunty’s house at about 6pm and as I waited for my laptop to start up I couldn’t help feel relieved as I recalculated that I still had time to finish my post and get back in time for dinner with the family. Everyone’s a winner I thought to myself, but no sooner than I did my precious Macbook decided to die a sudden, complete and untimely death on me.
Somehow, and I can’t quite explain how (although I imagine it was the two hours of practice I’d had on the bus earlier) I managed to hold onto my present moment and stop my mind racing ahead to broken promises, costly repair bills and lengthy explanations to you about why I’d failed my 30 day challenge on day 3!
Staying in the present allowed me to stay calm and think straight. I walked slowly and without stress to my Aunty’s house, calmly explained my situation, borrowed a scooter and went in search of an internet cafe with actual computers (something actually quite rare in this day and age). Being fully present stopped me from driving like an idiot and gave me a real sense that everything was okay. Not that it would be okay in the future but that in that very moment all was good. Within 45 minutes I had found a cafe and finished and published my post.
The universe, God or whoever is in charge of doling out life lessons, didn’t see fit to leave it there because today has seen even more of the same. This morning as I sat and waited for my Aunty to shower and get ready to take me to the Apple shop, rather than sit tapping my foot, staring at the clock and watching my morning slip away from me, I picked up a pad and a pen and started to hand write this very post (can you imagine?) and before I knew it I had written six pages and my Aunty was stood at the door saying “Come on, let’s go!”.
Staying in the present moment meant that when the lady in the Apple shop shook her head and said “sorry this is a hardware not a software problem, there is nothing we can do”, I managed to stop my mind flooding with doom and gloom. Honoring the present moment meant that when we found a second shop with a service centre, instead of pacing up and down as I waited impatiently to be served, I sat down and managed to look around me and see the funny side of my situation.
I couldn’t help laughing to myself as I looked at the other people around me. A boyfriend rubbing his girlfriend’s shoulder reassuringly as she listened intently to the technicians diagnosis on her laptop and another guy, somberly closing his laptop and respectfully placing it back inside its case after I can only imagine he’d been told “I’m sorry but there is nothing we can do”. It’s not that I was laughing at other people’s misfortune but more at how much the situation reminded me of a hospital waiting room and how starkly it seemed to me that we place far too much importance on ‘things’, but that is a whole other post.
As I left my precious laptop in the hands of trained doctors, sorry I mean technicians, I felt totally at ease with my/its fate. I knew that in a few hours I’d find out if anything could be done to save my computer, but until then rather than worry about it, I was going to enjoy a relaxed and delicious lunch while scribbling down the rest of this post on paper.
What I’ve learnt over the past 24 hours is how incredibly powerful staying consciously in the present moment can be. For me, it’s about acceptance of what is rather than hoping, wishing or fantasizing about more and it’s acceptance of the present situation rather than predicting, betting on or prophesizing less.
I also believe that when we feel the least inclined to be fully present is precisely when we need to do so the most. Sure, it’s easy to enjoy the present when you are lay, rocking in a hammock without a care in the world but when we can honour the present moment even when the present doesn’t feel all that great and when all of our instincts want to escape it, that’s when I believe we get to the good stuff.
As Tolle states in his brilliant book,
As soon as you honour the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out of present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care and love – even the most simple action. So do not be concerned with the fruit of your action – just give attention to the action itself. The fruit will come of its own accord.”
I have by no means mastered the art of being in the present moment but I do feel like over the past 24 hours, I’ve gained some insight into the power of now.
What opportunities for embracing the now have you had recently? Can you apply the principles I’ve mentioned to bigger and more important situations than a broken laptop or a late bus? I’d love to hear any tips you have for living more in the present moment. If you have enjoyed this post, please don’t forget to share it by hitting one of the buttons below.