#3 The Present Moment
3) The way to experience our wondrous self is to fully
experience the present moment, since each moment of
consciousness is infinitely wondrous in itself.
One of my favorite Yoga stories is the one about the young American who makes an arduous journey to the farthest reaches of the Himalayas, seeking to learn the secret of life and happiness from one of the greatest Yoga gurus.
Once in the Himalayas, he travels five days up into the mountains, through many trials and difficulties. Finally he reaches the high mountain pass where the great old man in a white robe and long flowing grey hair sits in lotus position, staring peacefully off into space.
The young man sits down next to the guru and assumes a similar pose, waiting for his words of wisdom. An hour goes by. Then several hours. Then a day, then several days. Finally the young man says to the old man, “What happens next?”
The guru answers, “Nothing happens next. This is it.”
Every moment of life is precious and magical. We experience this not by striving to be happy, but by focusing, in a relaxed way, on the present moment. Most unhappiness comes from regrets about the past or worries about the future, both of which are greatly diminished by gently focusing on the present moment.
Yoga makes no attempt to change the regrets, worries, or other suffering we face, but merely to provide a different perspective on them by making us aware of the wonder of life beyond our current preoccupations, no matter how important or serious they are.
Focusing on the present moment, we cannot help but become tuned into the wonder that is just being alive and conscious. No effort is required, just a relaxed shift in consciousness–a simple receptivity to the indescribable wonder of being alive and conscious at this very moment.
We don’t need to try to force ourselves to feel good, as in “positive thinking”. When regrets and worries occur, we don’t need to fight them. Instead, feel them just as they are, without judgment, then gently refocus on what’s going on right now in the current moment. The current moment is rarely unhappy in and of itself.
You might say, this is all well and good if one is already content and happy, and one’s problems are relatively small. But what about the truly serious pain and anguish that happens in everyone’s life, to one extent or another?
It would appear that the more stressed and troubled one is, the more helpful Yoga might be. Yoga and Yoga-like techniques are being used today for the treatment of even the most overwhelming grief and health problems, including tragedies like terminal illness and the loss of a loved one. Like acupuncture before it, “mindfulness” meditation is starting to be studied and proven scientifically in the West.
You might think if one is “present-focused”, one would just sit around like a wet noodle all day and do nothing.
Surprisingly, I find the opposite is true. Since my regrets and anxieties are reduced to relative insignificance (still all there, but put into perspective by the awareness of continual wonder) I find myself with more pure energy to do everything.
I’m able to give myself more completely to other people in conversation. I find myself enjoying or easily tolerating things that would have made me very unhappy before. I am more objective and creative about solving problems.
And, without being false, forced or even effortful in anyway, I do have a much more constant and abiding appreciation of the everyday incredible magic that is being alive.