Quite by accident last night on my hotel room TV I stumbled onto an episode of “Nature” on PBS that grabbed my attention. In it naturalist Joe Hutto became “mother” to a flock of wild turkeys and lived with them day in and day out. His year and a half with the birds gave him a unique opportunity to immerse himself in their lives and see the world through their eyes. At one point in the program he said we do not have a privileged access to reality. We have this tendency to live ahead: to anticipate. Wild turkeys don’t do that. They believe all their needs will be met in this moment and life is not better ½ mile deeper into the woods and tomorrow. This is it. We betray our lives in the moment. Wild turkeys remind me to be present; to be here.
In my life weeks and months have passed when I had a little presence in the moment. Either something from the past was always haunting me or thoughts of the future were worrying me. Often both were happening at once. Looking back I don’t recall a single bit of the anguish ever making my life better. However, I could not see the complete waste being disconnected from “now” was. Wandering around in the past or future tripping is like being lost in a fog without even being aware of the blinding mist.
Remex Sasson has a good explanation of what living in the present is: to be aware of what is happening to you, what you are doing and what you are feeling and thinking. It is being conscious of your thoughts and focusing them on the present. In this way you look at situations as they are, without coloring them with your past experiences. Living in such a way makes it easier to deal with whatever you are doing at the present moment. You see things as they are, without being influenced by fears, anger, desires or attachments.
For me rehashing the past or contemplating the future has a lot to do with control. When I stop and focus, it’s a little crazy to realize I have tried over and over to get something in the past to make sense. That was me trying to control the past; to change it; to bring it around to my way of thinking. More often than not, the past just was and makes no logical sense. I see that better today.
It took intention and practice to break my habit of excessive worrying about the future and fretting about the past. Now the realization is clear all that was just a deeply ingrained bad habit. There was no quick fix for me. Intention and desire was the beginning for me to change. Determination to improve my life made it possible. A meditation practice made my effort consistent. And learning from a variety of people from Tolle to Epictetus, Lama Das to Moses, Collier to Seligman and more gave wisdom to urge me forward.
Sitting here at the keyboard my thoughts again drift to the “Nature” program last night where naturalist Joe Hutto repeatedly made the point that animals in the wild are much smarter than we give them credit. He intimated it is a great mistake to think wild animals are dumb. Just because they are completely ignorant of the ways of the civilized world does not make them stupid. They are born with genetic imprinting humans have lost over time due to lack of need. Consequently in these times we are the ones that come into the world “dumb”.
We’re living in a world that contributes in a major way to mental fragmentation, disintegration, distraction, de-coherence, says Buddhist scholar B. Alan Wallace. We’re always doing something, and we allow little time to practice stillness and calm.
No magical cure has found me. There has no painless rebirth. It has instead been a practiced awareness that came from repeated trial and error that changed things. Now I can at least some of the time keep myself rooted in the present. Gone are the days when 100% of the time my past and future roared like a waterfall to drown out all of the “now”. It’s likely at least half the time I still am somewhere else other than the present. But that also means about half the time I am right here, right now!
Within there is much awareness that I miss the one in my heart and look forward to feeling her in my arms tonight when I return from being away for several days. A smile comes and I resist trying to imagine our reunion in more detail. Instead I hang on to the warm and contented feeling those thoughts bring knowing she waits for me and go back to whatever I am doing. I am so very grateful to be at this juncture of my life where every moment is dear to me. I’ll be home soon Darlin’.
Having spent the better part of my life trying either to relive the past or experience the future before it arrives, I have come to believe that in between these two extremes is peace. Author Unknown