First Published - April 6, 2007
NOW's elusive nature is at once fleeting and timeless.
Human nature seems to have us longing for what we do not have. Always looking to solve the ever-present imbalance in our lives. Like water seeking its own level we are in a constant state of uneasy searching for our natural balance. Why? What’s in it for us? As I meditated on this concept and worked with my students this week I realized a few things that I want to share with you today.
Our true nature...
I tend to look back through time to seek an understanding of who we are today; a kind of anthropological review of past behaviors and tendencies. For example: Men tend to be good trackers, they can hit moving targets, make quick decisions (although not necessarily good ones) and they have aggressive, even dominating behaviors; in short - hunters. Women tend to be detail oriented, make careful, considered decisions with a strong memory for recalling events and items (Men hate this by the way); in short - Gatherers. I know this seems a little "Men are from Mars" like but I do have a point to make with it. Going back to never seeming happy with where we are in the "NOW", I think this is an innate tendency that helps us to evolve, mature and be fruitful. Imagine what your world would have been like if upon graduation from High School you stopped wanting to be anything but what you were at that moment. Never wanting more for yourself, never wondering what was next. It goes against our nature to stand still and be content. Doesn't it?
When we lived with dinosaurs, our nature, a pure survival instinct, drove us to be smarter, stronger, faster; ever pushing forward. "Like the old joke states - " I don't have to out run the bear, I just have to out run you". When we constantly push ourselves to "keep up with the Jones' " are we sacrificing "the now" in the process? I think back to the adage "Stop and smell the roses" or "money does not buy happiness" and I realized more clearly this week the depths of these universal truths.
Out with the old, in with the new...
When I get a new student in class I often see deep-rooted tendencies to want things in a hurry, not having the patience available for the slow, meticulous processes that we call Tai Chi & Qigong training. I have seen it literally drive students from the classroom before they even had a chance to understand what was going on. Her are some actual comments we have heard from potential students:
"That is WAY too slow for me"
“I could never learn to be that still and relaxed"
"I don't have any balance"
"I could never remember this"
Really! Some of these naysayers stayed with it and now are some of our best students. They chose to push past their fears and grow from the challenges they faced in this training environment. It truly warms my heart to see them now.
What about Now?
I am usually reading two or three books concurrently and this week, read a passage in my "Book of the Week" selection Wherever you go. There you are by Jon Kabat-Zinn that truly struck a chord with me. He quotes Gary Snyder from The Practice of the Wild; in essence stating that we tend to move through our daily, mundane life of dishes, laundry, house cleaning, cooking, fixing cars, longing for the time to be present for ourselves; desiring to be lost in a book or meditation, hiking in the forest, practicing Tai Chi or even watching TV. When in reality, the beauty in our lives lies in every waking moment. If we learn to appreciate each of our daily, mundane tasks as an opportunity to be fully present, we can learn to appreciate the true nature of living in the now. In Tai Chi training, I am always encouraging students to listen to their bodies in the now and not worry about the net movement until it is happening. I try to live my life by the same rule but reading that passage brought to light some areas where I can certainly improve my effort.
4 practical exercises for learning to be in "the now"
Use the Dan Tien Breathing technique (abdominal breathing) to bring your awareness into the present moment. It is easier to do this lying down but anywhere is fine. Focus on expanding you lower abdomen when you inhale and using those muscles to help you exhale more fully. Keep your breath relaxed, fluid and deep.
Tai Chi Walking Basic
A great way to become fully present. Listen to every step in a very slow and careful manner. Trying to be fully present in each muscles, weight shift and subtle movement.
Early Morning Meditation
Set your alarm 15 to 20 minutes early (it won't hurt much ;-)) sit in a comfy chair and just try to be. Do not try to "meditate" just be. Listen to your breath, smile from the heart, and just be. If you feel the need, set an alarm so that you do not have to worry about the time. Try this for 2 minutes and increase the time as you feel you need the challenge.
Be Present Moment by Moment
Live each moment, one at a time, be fully present and awake, smile from the heart and dance like no one is watching.
I wish you well on your path to being fully present in your day.