How often are you aware of the now?

Today is July 5 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often are you aware of the now?” Siddhasana or Accomplished Pose, is an ancient, seated asana in yoga often used for meditation. Siddha comes from the Sanskrit meaning both "perfect" and "adept", and asana meaning "posture" or "seat." Ann Swanson noted the posture is also referred to as Accomplished Pose because it was the goal of all other asanas to ready the body to sit in meditation in this way. Throughout the centuries many yogis would imply Siddhasana is the only pose practitioners would need, asking "When Siddhasana is mastered, of what use are the various other postures?" Today’s reflection focuses on the now and challenges to reader to sit and be aware of the present moment at the exclusion of both the past and the future. Something far easier said than done. Practicing the art of living well, however, often requires a deep understanding of the present moment.

Translating dreams into reality requires a constant focus on the future. If you take your eye off the goal even for a moment you could risk making forward progress. The path to navigate the chaos of life is so precarious every step counts. To move forward, one must first acknowledge where they are to best determine a next step. Thus, being aware of the present moment then, remains a critical strategy to use for those trying to navigate the chaos. Now many people with a clear vision of the future are so preoccupied they will tell you the present pales in comparison. The now is nice, but to rest is the now is to lose forward progress. To be so aware of the now is to lose sight of the dream. Being aware of the present moment, however, is nuanced and requires a moment of reflection.

There is little doubt that living in the present moment is hard work for humans. Dr. Eyal Winter, author of Feeling Smart: Why Our Emotions are More Rational Than We Think, suggests that “human psychology is evolutionarily hard-wired to live in the past and the future. Other species have instincts and reflexes to help with their survival, but human survival relies very much on learning and planning. You can’t learn without living in the past, and you can’t plan without living in the future.”

Those who successfully navigate the chaos understand Eckart Tolle’s observation that “Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: 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.” Tolle published his best-selling book The Power of Now in 1997 and reached the New York Times Best Seller lists in 2000. Tolle has said that he was depressed for much of his life until he underwent, at age 29, an "inner transformation." He then spent several years wandering "in a state of deep bliss" before becoming a spiritual teacher.

Tolle wrote that one should “realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.” What if the now is too hurtful? What if the now is too painful? What if you have convinced yourself there is no way forward from the present moment? So many people feel as though the present moment has them stuck, preventing them from moving forward and navigating the chaos. Health concerns, financial issues, or relationship struggles are the three most common barriers preventing people from living in the now, accepting it, and then figuring out a way forward through the chaos. If you find yourself in such a situation unable to navigate the chaos recall Tolle’s observation:

“When there is no way out, there is still always a way through. So, don’t turn away from the pain. Face it. Feel it fully. Feel it — don’t think about it! Express it if necessary, but don’t create a script in your mind around it. Give all your attention to the feeling, not to the person, event, or situation that seems to have caused it. Do not let the mind use the pain to create a victim identity for yourself out of it. Feeling sorry for yourself and telling others your story will keep you stuck in suffering. Since it is impossible to get away from the feeling, the only possibility of change is to move into it; otherwise, nothing will shift. So, give your complete attention to what you feel, and refrain from mentally labeling it. As you go into the feeling, be intensely alert. At first, it may seem like a dark and terrifying place, and when the urge to turn away from it comes, observe it but do not act on it. Keep putting your attention on the pain, keep feeling the grief, the fear, the dread, the loneliness, whatever it is. Stay alert, stay present — present with your whole Being, with every cell of your body. As you do so, you are bringing a light into this darkness. This is the flame of your consciousness.”

Questions to consider for today’s reflection are:

  • How often can you sit and contemplate the present moment?

  • How often do you make the NOW the primary focus of your life?

  • Do you allow yourself to process the pain that may accompany the present moment?

  • Can you give yourself permission to explore the pain of the present moment?

  • Do you trust yourself to process your feelings in the present moment in order to bring light to your darkness?

  • How often do you work on understanding the relationship between the present moment and your consciousness?