What Does ‘Live In The Now’ Mean, Anyway?!
Nowness, or being fully present in each moment, is one of my favorites these days. This has become a somewhat newer practice for me, and I’m so thankful to have found this! Granted, I’ve been unknowingly practicing this for years, and you probably have been too, just taking in things in the moment, trying not to focus on the past or the present, but now we do so in a mindful manner. By “mindful,” I mean paying attention to your thought process without judgment nor being swept away with each thought. Simply looking at each thought from an observer’s point of view on the banks of the river’s shore and not as though it’s your own thought, feeling or emotion floating with all of the debris in the river.
You may be asking, “How do you do that?” I wish I could say the answer is easy. Well, in many ways it is. However, for many people, when introduced to this concept, they state that they either: a) don’t have time to do this; or b) don’t have the patience to do this; or c) their mind races all over the place and there’s no way they can sit quietly to calm those thoughts for any period of time. Well, to that I say, those are all the reasons you NEED to engage in this practice!
Before I go on and talk to you about nowness, or present-ness, let me back up and talk a little about the resurgence of mindfulness and meditation in our culture nowadays. It hasn’t always been a focal point or something that people were really into. As a matter of fact, meditation and mindfulness were once looked at as a “hippie” or “counter-culture” practices that were laughed at and judged negatively. This was until people really began to realize the benefits of such practices. Compound that with the culture of having a medication for everything you can think of, and you have a re-emergence of more natural means of healing. I believe that the rise of psychopharmacology has also resulted in a rise of natural, holistic healing; or at least the awareness and piqued interest of it.
People don’t want to be on meds, especially long-term. I would venture to say that 95% of the people I have worked with, if not more, have stated that either: a) they don’t want to be on meds if they can help it; or b) if they are already on meds, they eventually would like to wean themselves off of them. They don’t want to deal with the side effects, the lethargy, the grogginess, the loss of personality, and, thus, the loss of being able to live life to the fullest. The long and short is that they don’t want to be a zombie, walking dead. They want to heal and they know there is a mind-body connection, but just don’t know how to access it. Well, this indeed is the right place to begin to access it.
Meditation and mindfulness have really started to make a comeback (and don’t call it a comeback, because they have been here for many many years!!) in the last 15-20 years. These are practices that have been used within many cultures and religions for centuries, especially in the east. Yet we have fallen farther away from these as we try to take on all things on our own, rely on technology or a quick fix to do the work for us, not realizing that the answer has always been within us; we simply need the key to get in. So being present in the moment is that very key.
The benefits of such practices are numerous. From lowering blood pressure, decreasing anxiety and depressive symptoms, and improving overall mood and health, there have been a lot of books written on all of these benefits. The point is, they work! While there are many levels to this practice, I will emphasize the foundational basis of meditation, which is to focus on your breath. No matter what, you can always return to your breath. As long as you are breathing, there is life; as long as there is life, there is light; as long as there is light, there is hope; as long as there is hope, there is breath. It comes full circle, 360 degrees. It makes me think of a 60 Minutes piece on CBS recently, where they interviewed a man who had been detained at Guantanamo for 15 years during the War on Terror, just after September 11, 2001. While there, he wrote one book that was released and reviewed as a New York Times Bestseller, chronicling his experiences while locked up there. The interviewer proceeds to ask him, “At what point while you were being shipped from one country to another and eventually to Gitmo did you feel that feeling in your stomach that this was it?” In other words, she was wondering if he had emotionally given up. He responded that never happened, surprisingly. There was always hope, and when there’s always hope, there is still life. What a powerful testament to being in the moment, not getting swept away into what the future potentially held!
Whenever a thought comes up, because they will – it is impossible to stop or completely quiet your thoughts, contrary to what people think meditation is about – simply acknowledge, notice, and let them go. We have thousands of thoughts per day. Do not cling to them as though they are you. Do not cling to them as they define who you are. Do not respond to them as though there is something you need to do or respond to now, in this very moment. The only thing you have to do in this very moment is breathe, be aware, and be. While you may have had a tendency before to be controlled by that thought as soon as it comes up, you are regaining your internal sense of control.
It reminds me of a patient I once worked with, who would consistently respond to his phone when it rang or buzzed during our sessions with a call or text message. This person also had self-described symptoms of ADHD. As we worked through a lot of his old ‘stuff,’ I began to talk to him about the power of choice. Whereas at one point he felt as though he didn’t have a choice as to answering those calls or texts, we discussed this in the context of life (and his internal thought process). He didn’t have to answer those things immediately. The person who was calling or texting could always either leave a message or wait for his response when he had a chance. He had more power over his phone than he ever thought. “Oh, I just don’t have to respond to each call I get!” he exclaimed. It was liberating for him, because he could remain present in our conversations in that room without being pulled off task by a device that somehow began to control his life. You don’t have to answer your phone! You don’t have to respond to that thought! It will be there. There is nothing you have to do in this moment but be.
Here is a link to a Mindfulness expert, Jon Kabat-Zinn:
The app, Insight Timer, is an amazing one that offers over 5000 FREE meditations and I have found it to be extremely beneficial not only for myself, but to all who have checked it out. It includes guided meditations, extended talks about meditation, as well as meditative music tracks. There is truly something there for everyone, so get to exploring!