Paying attention often means intersecting with important reminders. This past weekend I walked into a gift shop and spotted a key chain with the words, “Be. Here. Now.” I’ve repeated over and over how much I resist sitting in the present moment. Earlier this year, I wrote:
I’ve spent an entire lifetime fighting, struggling, resisting the present moment. My natural tendency is to dangle in the past or glide toward the future. What does this say about me? It indicates my lack of acknowledging what is and it is a dangerous, ungrateful way to live.
How many times have I heard, “There is only the present?” Intellectually, I understand the enormity of this statement, but my unwillingness to allow this thought to inhabit my insides is a constant source of restlessness. Every single day I hear of unthinkable tragedies that plague our world, from a devastating diagnosis, sudden loss or an unexpected turn no one predicted. Writing these words, I jump to attention, my spine lengthens and I start to feel the texture of the keys underneath my fingers. I glance up at my cork board, the familiar reminder, with no exclamation point, but only three letters, “Now.”
Now, I think. I massage the tiny word in my mind, the combination of letters which hold so much power, but seem like the unending Rubick’s cube I cannot solve. I realize my thoughts and my words here keep circling back to the same point, but in this season, it has become paramount to acknowledge how the present is my friend instead of a nemesis. It’s the passage of time I think, as I notice the grey strands of hair gathering around my temple, the increasing lines around my eyes and the scars that take longer to heal.
As I reread these words, I ponder how reckless it is to bank on comfort that arrives in retrospect or in anticipation and never exists in the current moment. The question persists – how can I be here now?
Practicing the words “be here now” is complicated and purposeful. In the last few days, I considered practical ways to include this philosophy in my daily life. Being here now means listening when a family member or friend talks to you. Not shaking your head or muttering the words, uh-uh, but fixing your gaze on what the person is saying, without feeling the need to interrupt or interject. Being here now means paying full attention to your spouse or child and not multitasking by texting or looking up one last thing on your mobile device. Being here now means cultivating a daily practice of gratitude. Recognizing what is, instead of what isn’t. Being here now means meditating, appreciating the quiet and allowing thoughts to simmer to surface. And then addressing the uncomfortable threads that may arrive as a result. Being here now means looking to the sky, sun and the natural world as way to acknowledge the universal and the vastness of the landscape. Being here now means acceptance and not living separate from the moments as they are happening. It means not hitting fast forward or rewind, but committing to the pause of now. The consequences are too dire to not heed the words, be here now.
As Thich Nhat Hanh articulates when “we fall back into the past, we jump ahead into the future, and in this we lose our entire lives.”