4 Ways to BEING in the PRESENT Moment
I’m here now
Watching the space
Feeling the pain in my heart
My skin bleeds
I’m not wishing
On a star
I’m here now…
The above are lyrics from “I’m Here Now,” the second track on my debut album “Mother of Mine.” It’s a love song I wrote for my best friend Katherine, with whom I lost connection in the wreckage of spiritual seeking. Katherine is the girl who introduced me to my husband Rich Roll, and we both adored her. Together Katherine and I studied with a certain spiritual teacher who placed much emphasis on past life regression. For me personally, this was a great beginning step in learning about who I am. However, I eventually came to a crossroads in my journey, as the information had become so heavy to carry. I felt constricted, and wed to the past, which left me unable to move freely in my life. At the time, I remember repeating out loud “I just want to be. I just want to be.” In my heart, I knew it was time for me to move on from this specific tenet of teachings.
I wanted the parting with my teacher to be easy; soft even. But I was naïve. Divine Mother had other plans for me. Severing ties with my teacher resulted in the unexpected distancing of Katherine, my best friend and co-conspirator in our search for higher truth. A “break up” that felt like she chopped my arm clean off. I was on the floor. So great was the split over choices of path, that my dear Katherine simply could not find a way to remain my friend. By leaving her guru and his teachings, I in effect left her. Or maybe they left me. Such is the way in love and gurus…
But as I have found time and time again, our most painful moments can birth the greatest gifts. Gifts of renewal. Clarity of purpose. And creativity. In my case, this experience opened a portal to channel a beautiful song – one that speaks authentically to the power of now; and to the collective human experience of suffering. I could not deny my pain at losing my friend. My skin hurt. Real and human, an emotional pain that cut deeper than any physical wound I had ever suffered, without the relief of any medicinal salve to ease it’s persistent ache. I realized I had no one to turn to outside of myself; no one to take that pain from me and help me even process it, let alone heal. So I did the only thing I could do – I turned inside.
Little did I know it at the time, but this was my greatest blessing. And for this I am eternally grateful. If the conditions had been different, I may not have found my way into BEING. Or at least not at that time.
Through the tears, the pain and the struggle, I found myself observing the body in it’s process. And through this awareness I achieved a state of peace and stillness. I could feel the pain, but I stopped identifying with it, simply observing it instead. And for this, Katherine, gave me one of the greatest gifts of my life.
Being human means existing amidst the constantly varying spectrum between suffering and joy. Experiencing life as a duality along this continuum. The mind makes determinations of events based on whether they bring us pleasure or pain. We judge each such experience based on our limited perception, then categorize it, like documents in a filing cabinet. As humans, it’s our very nature. But in actuality, this is crazy-making at its best. The antics of the unbridled ego wanting to feel important. In almost every case, the stupendous amounts of energy we expend in this regard is pure insanity.
Think about it. In reviewing your life, recollect all the times the times you were certain a particular event was really good, causing you to invest all of your energy and emotion into it. Now contrast this with all the times you were convinced an occurrence was the worst thing that ever happened to you, causing you to spend all your energy spiraling down some negative fantasy. Now tabulate the results in the present. How much of your contemporaneous judgments about these events were actually true? Did you even have a fraction of the evidence needed at that time to even make a valid judgment at that time – good or bad – at all? My guess is no.
The truth is that we can rarely (if ever) see the divine plan from our limited human view. It’s all perspective. This is why I make the decision, over and over again, to hand my life over to the divine – what I choose to call “Ma” or the Mother of Creation – then do my best to surrender to the present moment. The now. Please note that I just wrote “over and over again.”. It’s not like someone will hit us on the head with a wand and we will never feel fear, sadness, anger or the urge to judge or project again. It’s a “practice” of awareness to be in the present. And depending on what is happening in my life, making that decision to bring myself back to now may be once a day or, more often than not, 50 times a day.
As humans, we have a hard-wired aversion to pain and suffering. If we are hurting, it’s natural to reach for a pill, shove food in our mouths, smoke or do whatever is necessary to medicate ourselves in order to arrest the pain. But we must realize that we have a choice. And that there is another way. Because, in truth, we are not our emotions; and they need not define our experience. What if we just stopped resisting and observed what is? Simply accept that it’s ok if we aren’t uber psyched all the time? I like to call that comedic condition “superduper.” The “superdupers” are ALWAYS FANTASTIC! A life purported to be nothing but bliss, rainbows and unicorns. Based on my own experience, I don’t find this “front” to be authentic or relevant to my human experience.
What if when we saw someone in the “dark night” of their life, instead of lamenting on the sorry state of affairs we instead choose to perceive their experience as quite possibly their most sacred moment? Because it’s not what happens to you that matters – it’s how you walk through it. We could choose to support the challenge of experience with a perspective of awe and respect for the process of creation – and the potential for rebirth. All the while acknowledging the reality of accompanying suffering with deep compassion.
The truth is that we are spiritual beings having a human experience. It’s not the other way around. And we can find the still point that is unchanging awareness behind the polarities of despair and elation. This state is found in BEING, not in doing. This state is accessed in the NOW. And it is the TRUTH of who you really are.
Here are some tools that help me reside “here” now:
1. Read The Power of Now by Ekhart Tolle. Or better yet, listen to him read it to you on audio. If you haven’t had the blessing of hearing or reading this axiomatic text, you are missing an extraordinary opportunity to tap into a greater awareness of Self. Because Tolle is truly a master teacher on BEING. And a master teacher of being PRESENT, speaking brilliantly on the qualities of the “pain body” – a major theme of my song. We are blessed to have him alive on the planet today.
2. Drink “living” tea. What is “living” tea? Most commercially available teas are factory harvested from young sprigs and as such lack any true nutrition, let alone a relationship to the robust and sacred history of tea practice, a sort of communal meditation practice. In contrast, living tea, such as certain strains of Chinese Pu’erh, are derived from ancient tea trees (some over 800 years old) that carry the sacred language of the Earth within the veins of the leaf itself. Often aged in caves for upwards of decades and enjoyed communally in silence at the hands of a true tea master, tea ceremony is a meditative practice of true simplicity and beauty that will leave you more fully engaged in the present than you can imagine. For more information on living tea and ceremony practice, I suggest you visit Global Tea Hut, where a minimum donation of $20 a month gets you monthly tea literature and fresh living tea (As a disclaimer, we have no business relationship with this organization).
3. Meditate by humming. This is my fail safe go-to tool at almost any time or in any place. You can do it on your own for any duration, even 3 minutes will shift your energy. Placing your awareness in your heart center and pulling the hum up from the navel or manipura chakra into your heart, the tones will vibrate your heart center and cleanse your energies. After you stop humming, you may find (as I do) that you experience a state of no mind and feel the freedom of the gap in thoughts. For more information on humming meditation, you can check out my JAI RELEASE guided meditation program, a series of professionally recorded mp3's that guide your practice to a soundtrack of 13 overlapping humming voices that will find you lost in sound.
4. Breathe with your entire being. Whole body breathing is a practice that provides the foundation of the yoga practice that I teach. It’s a shift in awareness to receiving life force or prana into your being. This is accessed by imagining to breathe from your whole body, not just your mouth or nose. As we flow through the asanas, I am always pointing to it. If you start to feel your body as one whole organism and feel the breath entering from your whole body simultaneously, you can access life force from all directions. It’s as if your body was a balloon expanding and filling with prana, or life force. Mastering this discipline provides greater access to being fully embodied and fully present in your life.
I wish you “JAI” or victory in your pursuit of the NOW.