In 1997, the spiritual master Eckhart Tolle published his already classic The power of Nowan invitation to investigate within ourselves from the present moment, beyond the ego and thought. In this work, the German-born master insists that the only time there is is the present moment. And what about the present moment?
What is it to be present?
Each person has their experience, but what surely does not exist here and now are the future and the past.
Still, for survival, our brain works relying on memory.
The mind is used to predicting the near future and thus be prepared for what may happen. In the body it translates into what we call reflexes, which we use in martial arts, driving or any sport.
When we anchor ourselves in the past, we prolong the pain of experiences that we cannot change, or we project ourselves anxiously into the futurewhich is a nest of worries, many times imaginary.
Mental warfare can also be waged in the present, when we reject a situationthe posture or way of being of a family member or friend, when we fight against it instead of “loving what is”, as Byron Katie says.
Michael Brown, author of The process of presence defines awareness of being in the present moment as “a state of being, as opposed to something we do.”
when we meet in state of flowdefined by the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi as a moment of action in which we lose the ego and temporality and we flow absorbed in what we are doingwe can become (live, exist) one hundred percent in the now.
Therefore, There are two doors to the present moment: one is to stop doing in order to become; the other is to flow with what we do.
Exercise to live the present in a minute
The exercise I propose is based on this practice. Stop resisting and be present are two keys to love what is.
Being always busy, mental rumination, living in a hurry, overstimulation… The enemies of the moment prevent you from being present. Hence the importance of taking a break.
Like the monks of the Plum Village: Use your watch or mobile to schedule 4-5 alarms throughout the day, at different times of the day. You can choose, for example, the sound of a bell.
The alarms will serve as the Thich Nhat Hanh’s call to stop. They will remind you to stop to breathe 5-6 times and reconnect with yourself.
Stop, observe, and then write down your sensations. No matter where you are or what you are doing, notice how you feel after this practice and, if inspirations come to you, write them down. You will see how in a few weeks everything changes.
A shortcut to the present: the path of the body
The body exists only in the present moment.
The teachers of mindfulness invite us to anchor ourselves in the here and now through the five sensesthrough bodily sensations.
Although we can visualize the future, or travel to the past to unravel the keys of our current life, the more we incarnate in the body, the more present and happy we will be.
By being present, we open a space to become aware of our actions. We also reach a neutral status as observers.
That thatThe shortest way to find yourself. There is no difference between what you are, what you feel, what you think, communicate and do.
The benevolent observation also invites stop fighting what is and stop reacting on autopilot.
As the orientalist and philosopher concludes Alan Watts: “This feeling of eternal present […] it is the secret of a suitable rhythm of life. Live unhurriedly. Without wasting time either. is the feeling of flowing with the course of events in the same way that you dance with the music, without trying to run forward, or stay behind. Rushing and delaying are similar ways of trying to resist the present.”
Dancing, visiting nature, taking breaks or meditating help you cultivate presence.
In the Plum Village and in the retreat centers of Thich Nhat Han there is a beautiful practice to cultivate that presence: every now and then a bell rings that invites the whole community to stop what they are doing at that moment and practice mindful breathing.