“I don’t know what to do. I’ve put all my eggs in this law school basket and I just dropped it,” said Christy Plunkett, a character in the television sitcom Mom. Her mother Bonnie yelped in excitement, “That’s why you don’t put all your eggs in one basket. I just got that!”
How often do we learn something and not really get what it means? We read countless books about a particular subject, watch experts talk about it, maybe even take courses so we can put it into practice. We think we understand but at the back of our mind, there’s still a paradoxical layer that leaves us confused, struggling to fully grasp its true meaning — until the proverbial penny finally drops. Most people call this an aha moment, and this is one of mine.
I’ve been meditating for many years. It has made such impact on my life. It gave birth to profound experiences that were life-changing for me. One of the things that meditation taught me is to focus on the present moment. In addition to that, I’ve also read many materials, among them Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now and The Art of Mindful Living by Thich Nhat Hahn. I’ve also been listening to Deepak Chopra’s guided meditations for years where he talks about being present over and over again. Their teachings made sense to me. Partially.
In reality, I was struggling to reconcile the difference between embracing the here and now and accepting my current situation. I want something else for myself. I want to follow the path to a “life with purpose.”
It took me years to uncover what it is that I am called to do. It was buried under deep layers of false beliefs and conditioned upbringing while following a false map to success and fulfillment. When I finally excavated it and held it in my hands, I wanted to run — not walk but run — with it. I felt like I wasted most of my years living life as a circus monkey — perfectly trained to do what I was asked to do with a poke of a stick. I was done with that. So, when the cage was finally opened, I wanted to run away as fast as I could back into the ‘wild.’
Let me just clarify one thing. My life is not bad. It’s not even unpleasant. It’s actually pretty good. I’m just not where I want to be. I held in my mind this vision of the new life that I wanted to create for myself. I saw, heard, smelled, tasted, and even felt it. It was real. I gave it life. It is there and yet it is so far out of reach I didn’t know how to get there.
And it wasn’t just ‘mental work’ we’re talking about here. I took courses, made plans, did all the preparations and put everything into action, and yet it felt like I was walking through deep, thick mud with a bungee cord pulling me back with each and every step. As a high performer in my “former life,” it had me feeling frustrated, stressed, overwhelmed and utterly miserable about my life. I felt stuck. Really stuck. I wanted to throw in the towel many times.
Then, I finally heard the ‘click’
One day, as I was idly perusing a useful how-to video on YouTube, I stumbled upon an Eckhart Tolle TV episode where he said that being in the present moment doesn’t mean accepting your life situation. As I listened to him talk, all the things I’ve learned about mindfulness started to fall into place, lining up like the spinning reels of a slot machine hitting a jackpot.
It was the glue that I needed to piece together everything that I had known about being in the here and now. It was the last click in the combination lock that finally opened the door to the proper understanding of this concept. Right there and then, being in the Now became no longer a paradoxical concept but the truth — a knowing that was unleashed to turn my “fantasy” into reality.
Wanting something else that we think will make our life better or make us feel happy is resistance. Cognitively, I knew this. I was aware that I was resisting my life. And as the cliché goes, what we resist, persists. I gripped on to the newfound knowing of what my life needed to be so tightly I was suffocating the living daylights out of it.
I erroneously thought that if I loosened that grip, I won’t be able to make the changes that I need to get there. I was afraid that if I lost sight of it, it will slip way. I was afraid that if I accepted the present moment, I am also accepting my current situation and I will be stuck with it for the rest of my life.
Eckhart’s words echoed in my head: “…accepting the isness of the moment instead of adding resistance to it…does not remove your ability to bring about change in the situation. In fact, it enhances [it]. To be okay with what is, which is the simplicity of this moment, is the beginning of true change.”
Eckhart explained that when we focus on the Now, change will occur either through action that arose from that moment or something happens that changes the situation without even doing anything (like circumstances beyond our control) — or both. These things occur from the place of being present, not by projecting our mind into something that we don’t yet have or a future that hasn’t happened yet.
The answers lie in the here and now
Armed with this new truth, I let go of my attachment to my “future life” and started living my life in this way — focusing on my life one present moment at a time. Doing this forced me to slow down. Putting my attention to what I can do that arises from this very moment helped me get rid of impending stress and anxiety. I still have my plans and my to-do lists but I’ve become more flexible and respond to what I feel guided to do in the moment.
It became a way for me to get rid of negativity faster because when we embrace the Now, we have the chance to leave negative feelings behind and replace it with something positive right here, right now so that they no longer become part of the present. I keep in mind what I once heard Deepak say:
“Like an unwelcome guest, the more you entertain negativity, the longer it wants to stay and not leave.” So, I chose to make it not want to stay for too long whenever it drops by.
I’ve also become more relaxed and the things that used to overwhelm me no longer do. The things that I viewed as problems no longer are. I’ve become at peace with the fact that everything that I need lies not five years from now, not an hour from now, not even 10 minutes from now, but right now. It helped me become more alert to the signs and opportunities around me and take advantage of them when they arise, particularly when they come in the form I didn’t envision them to be.
As a result, ideas, people and other resources that I need started to manifest. Solutions to problems come out of nowhere. In the areas where I didn’t know what to do, I suddenly get the ideas on how to do them. For certain tools that could help me with my work but couldn’t afford, I found alternatives that are way cheaper but fit my needs. Random people come to me with something that helps me with my work.
Answers started to come simply because I chose to give each moment the attention that it needs not because I was frantically searching for them like I used to do. My perceived obstacles disappeared instantly and, consequently, I no longer feel stuck.
There are times when we are faced with unpleasant moments. We don’t have to enjoy those but the mere acceptance of what is brings about a sense of inner peace where the ideas or actions for the next step occur.
But when things are pleasant, enjoyment takes place. Facing life one moment at a time gives us the opportunity to notice and truly enjoy the little things in life — like the ray of sunshine coming through the window or the smell of lilac lingering in the air — knowing that the “big” things are all made up of little things that happen in the Now.
So, I’ve learned to accept the “bad” moments and enjoy the “good” ones. The present moment gives me so much more than the mere attention that I give it and I know it will always be there with me. It is not in my past and not in my future, but here. Now. With me. Always. And as I spend more and more time with it, it gives me such a beautiful blissful feeling that words could not even describe and it’s only getting stronger every day. And that’s how I realized I was falling in love with the present moment.