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June 29, 2010 / Jenny Ann Fraser

Practicing The Power of Now: Part 1

Living In The Moment

“When you are on a journey, it is certainly helpful to know where you are going or at least the general direction in which you are moving, but don’t forget; The only thing that is ultimately real about your journey is the step that you are taking at this moment. That’s all there ever is.” -Eckhart Tolle

Just over two years ago, I read A New Earth: Awakening To Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle and a few months later, I read his first book The Power of Now. I often do things backwards.

To say that these books changed my life really is an understatement. The concepts in the book were like putting on a pair of glasses that allowed me to see the world and my place in it from an entirely new perspective. This opened a door that had previously been closed, wide enough to drive a semi through. I entered a space of entirely new possibilities and began on the journey that is my life today.

Last week, I opened up The Power of Now for a second time, and I now see it again, with new eyes.

I have rededicated my life to living in the moment.

This concept, is not new at all. It has been taught by many for thousands of years, but it seems that now are more people awakening to what it really means, and why it is important.

For every person that I have come into contact with through my day-to-day life, the blogging world, Twitter, television, media, who understands and embraces the concept of living in the now, I have probably met at least one who is either confused by it, or doesn’t understand it at all.

It has had such an impact on my life, even though I’m more often than not unsuccessful at staying in the moment, that I decided to write about it as I am experiencing it, right Now.

There is truly nothing wrong with revisiting happy memories of the past, or analyzing past experiences for the purpose of learning from our mistakes in order to prevent repeating them. And we certainly need to plan for our futures in order to reach goals, or prevent problems from occurring. This is necessary… to a certain extent.

That said, what do we have to gain, from re-living our negative or traumatic experiences, once we’ve learned what we need to? And seriously, why do we worry so much over a future that is beyond our control?

The past, is nothing more than a thought in our heads, no matter how painful, damaging or destructive it was. The future, is never going to arrive.

The simple truth, that Tolle writes and speaks of, which seems for all of us so very hard to comprehend is: “The present moment is all you ever have.”

I have a problem in my life right now. A huge problem that I have no need to go into here, but lets just say, this problem is big enough that when I think about it, my stomach curls into a knot, and my heart feels as though it is trying to escape through my mouth.

I have thought it through and come up with a couple of potential solutions. I have taken the necessary steps to put these solutions into action and all I can do is wait…

Now, I can wait, and worry myself sick, or I can live in the moment, and accept that the outcome will be what it will be. At this point it is out of my hands. Things may work out just fine, or the situation may become very unpleasant, but like always, I will survive. It is not life-threatening, and even if it was I still have no control here.

I am focused these days on remaining conscious of being rooted in my body. I understand this to be one key to living in the moment. As I write this post, part of my attention is focused on my breath (which surprise; grew tighter and shorter as I wrote those past few paragraphs, ). I am aware of the feeling of my fingers flying over the keys, the fact that my feet are a bit cold, and that I really should eat something. I’m listening to my cat munch on his dry food and I’m aware of the sounds of the traffic and the birds through the open window. I am also completely focused on what I am trying to say here. I am focused, on what is happening in this moment.

This may sound like a lot to concentrate on at one time, but it is actually less than what is usually going on with all of the thoughts that usually circulate in my perpetually noisy mind. All of this is far less challenging to focus on than thinking about the current and potential stresses in my life while trying to write about peace.

Despite, the above mentioned issue, after consciously lengthening, and deepening my breath and bringing myself back to this page,  I feel very peaceful. This, is living in the moment.

It will last for a few seconds, maybe a minute, before my Monkey Mind races on to something else.When I become aware that it is racing along again, I come back to my breath and my body for another dose of calm. This is meditation in action.

Practicing presence, is much more difficult than flying through my days unconscious and unaware of what is actually going through my head, responding to both external and internal events out of habits based on past conditioning. But it is also more healthy and rewarding.

My goal is to grow in awareness of the chatter in my mind always returning to the moment with the hope that maybe someday this state of presence will be automatic, or at least more naturally and frequently occurring.

That is my goal, but there is no need to engage myself in fantasy thoughts of what life will be like when I am there. In fact, if I am doing that, I will never arrive, because it is only practice that could make that possible, and I can only practice in this moment.

I’m sure that most of us live with a constant stream of thoughts endlessly flying through our heads non-stop all day, everyday. Many of us are aware of this and seek to quiet the noise using many tried and proven methods. Yoga, meditation, relaxation, exercise, long walks in the woods. Many of us have felt the peace that comes when we are able to quiet our minds and become truly aware of our present surroundings, even if it is only for a few seconds. What if we could live in that space, and carry it with us all of the time? Tolle claims that this is possible.

Of course, what we are talking about here is enlightenment.

Yesterday I read that it is said by some, that there are only 44 enlightened people on the planet at any given time. Even if this is true, I would argue that it doesn’t matter whether we actually achieve enlightenment or not.

We don’t need to quit our jobs and hide out for months in an ashram in India, or neglect our responsibilities for hours and hours spent sitting in meditation. (Although I’m all for meditation.) Nor do we have to wait until our kids grow up and move out, or our jobs become less stressful.

What matters is where we are right now, because that will be the ultimate deciding factor which determines where we are headed.

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18 Comments

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  1. Kathy / Jun 29 2010 6:56 pm

    Lovely post Jenny! I’ve listened to the audio of both New Earth and Power of Now many times over. You are right about repetition. It bears revisiting again and again. Love how you brought us present to your presence with the fingers flying…

    Right now, I’m present to jackhammers and deck sanders. It’s not working for me 🙂

    Maybe if we were more present, we’d have less intrusive noise, lights etc going on in our lives and more Beauty and nature. go figure!

    hope all works out for you re: whatever it is you are facing that causes the gut clenching.

    • jennyannfraser / Jun 29 2010 8:57 pm

      Hello Kathy! It’s so nice to see you back.
      Yes, Tolle really is worth re-reading. I also listen to the audio versions at work when I’m alone. I’ve discovered that it’s fun to give it a rest and then come back and see how your perception changes over time.
      Oh what a different world we might live in if we were more present. I truly believe that everything would change.
      As for the jackhammers, and my current situation… “This too shall pass.”

  2. mommylebron / Jun 29 2010 7:03 pm

    People are always asking me why I’m not freaking out over this, that or the other. I have a mantra. It’s pretty simple. “I will not stress myself out over things I cannot control.”
    Also, I was on my way to the library today and I was thinking, we are broke right now (I haven’t worked since April) but I feel the happiest that I ever have because I have so much time with my family and no obligations! I’m enjoying everyday (as cheaply as possible!)
    Love the post!

    • jennyannfraser / Jun 29 2010 8:59 pm

      Thanks Amanda,
      I too have been well, more un-employed than employed since April. It’s trying to find the gifts in the difficult moments that get us through.

  3. Chris Edgar / Jun 29 2010 8:53 pm

    Thanks for this — I like what you said about having no need to wait to observe ourselves and what’s going on around us — we can come back to this moment at any time without special training. 🙂

  4. Emily Jane / Jun 30 2010 7:33 am

    Oh my goodness! I am reading “A New Earth” right now and LOVING it, I just want to soak up all the words as it is so inspiring and so wise! I am almost finished, and I just got the Power of Now as well – can’t wait to tackle that one too. Seriously life-changing stuff!

    • jennyannfraser / Jun 30 2010 9:52 am

      I plan to start reading “ANE” again tomorrow! Enjoy!

  5. rob white / Jun 30 2010 5:01 pm

    Hi Jenny,
    Yes, I love Eckhart… his work is very powerful. I love that you are practicing your mindfulness and staying pragmatic and grounded about your own situation. When we are facing very real challenges in the present moment, having a clear and focused mind will always help us arrive at the solution.

    • jennyannfraser / Jul 1 2010 11:14 am

      Thank you Rob!
      I do find that present moment awareness to be key both to deal with life’s stresses, and to be our most effective selves. It also feels good!

  6. Belinda Munoz + The Halfway Point / Jun 30 2010 6:03 pm

    Hi Jenny, thank you for sharing. I’m glad to hear that focusing on living in the moment is helping you with your current problem. I see this as almost a type of sweet surrender. We have the present moment to work with and the future may never come and is largely unwritten so the present is really the only space that validates our being.

    • jennyannfraser / Jul 1 2010 11:15 am

      Hi Belinda,
      I love the idea of sweet surrender! It is about accepting “what is” in this moment with the awareness that everything is changing all of the time. Thanks for stopping by.

  7. shiona / Jul 1 2010 5:39 am

    Hi Jenny,
    A couple of years ago I think I was finally able to realize how important it is to enjoy life here and now, as they say. I’ve never been one of those who waste their time regretting the past, but I used to always wait for “the right moment” to come. Step by step I am changing this attitude and I find my life more satisfactory in the process.
    Thanks a lot for sharing and best wishes to you!
    Shiona

    • jennyannfraser / Jul 1 2010 11:19 am

      Thank you for stopping by Shiona!
      I too have spent far too much of my life “waiting”. I still catch myself from time to time, as old habits die hard, but it is liberating to recognize it and come back to the present moment. The challenge for me is to remain aware of where my thoughts are in any given moment.

  8. Dinesh / Jul 9 2010 12:56 pm

    Hi Jenny!

    Lovely post. Good to see sincere people around. I do have read some part of that book and nothing seems to be new in a way yet its is so refreshing 🙂

    Also where I do differ from you on two places:

    one that you find your problem so big that just the thought of that give you a earthquake inside and bringing you awareness to this moment give you a sigh of relief that’s good enough escape of mind. But All this techniques to help but what Adi Shankara said almost 1000 years seems more potent solution here forgetfulness of your true nature is the main cause of all the problem whether physical, mental, psychological or social or spiritual. And I totally agree with it & consolidating with my experience and ignorance is only pain and only knowledge can burn this bondage. All these practices becoming aware of the moment and breath/body are also fundamental part of teaching on Buddha for beginners as he mentioned 4 fundamental practices:

    1. Kayanu paschana (observe the body)
    2. Vedananu paschana (observe the sensation in the body)
    3. Prananu paschana (observe the breath)
    4. chittanu paschana (observe the mind)

    To my experience it all help to conserve the energy and keep us more grounded. For the same reason I differ when you say neglect our responsibilities for hours and hours spent sitting in meditation. I think meditation/solitude in ashrams is like refueling ourselves so that when you are recharged you comeback in the world of activity and take on any challenges. Its like maintaining the balance in the activity & rest 🙂 isn’t it!

    There are few nice post on http://dinesh-inquiryintothereality.blogspot.com/ I hope you will enjoy and hope to get some insight from a sincere seeker within you 🙂

    With love & Blessing
    Dinesh

    • jennyannfraser / Jul 9 2010 2:12 pm

      Hello Dinesh, Thanks for stopping by!
      I think that all religious traditions at they’re core were teaching this same thing. The steps you listed above are exactly what I am talking about. Thank you for expressing them more eloquently.
      My point about neglecting responsibilities to spend time in meditation was not to suggest that meditation anywhere is not wonderful. The point is, that for those of us who cannot engage in such luxuries, we can still grow from where-ever we are right now. Travel, time off, being less busy is not necessarily a prerequisite to personal growth.
      I look forward to checking out your blog!

Trackbacks

  1. Practicing The Power of Now: Part 2 « arriving at your own door
  2. The Summer Doldrums « arriving at your own door

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