The Law of Here and Now — looking backward to examine what was or looking forward to interpret what will be prevents us from being totally in the here and now. Here and now IS truly the ONLY reality; everything other than the present is a “was” or a “will be.”
Above: Credit: Wikimedia/Toshihiro Oimatsu
If we close our eyes and wander through our thinking, we have left the here and now. With our eyes open and looking at our surroundings, listening to our breath, we return to the here and now.
Close your eyes now and think about all you will do today — you are officially experiencing ideas of future. Now, open your eyes and look around you, feel your body, what position are you in, what is around you, how is your heartbeat, your breath? Just notice all of that — this is experiencing the here and now.
Mindfulness teaches us to embrace the law of here and now. Earlier in this blog, I spoke of the apple meditation, which gives us the experience of the here and now with each savored bite. Try to use that same structure in other things you are doing, and you will have a deeper experience of the only reality — the present moment.
As a therapist and lifelong learner, I have learned to embrace this law, but only after considerable personal experiences of the consequences of looking elsewhere. Some of us dwell in our past experiences and, based on those feelings and thoughts, make decisions in the here and now. When things aren’t going well, we blame it on circumstance and other variables that have nothing to do with reality. It is important to notice whether we are carrying our past like a hobo sack on our backs or using that lens to make decisions in the here and now.
Don’t get me wrong — it’s important to have a “library of experiences” we can call on when something familiar we have already been through comes along. We access our memories to help us maneuver through life, but we need to be careful that those memories don’t dictate how we live but rather just assist.
While living in Israel, it was the past that helped me gain the understanding of the now. For several years in my early twenties I studied at Haifa University to obtain my licensure from the State of Israel’s Ministry of Tourism to become a tour guide for missions and pilgrimages. In the two years it took to obtain the degree, I spent every week traveling to another place in the country to learn about the relevance of the place and the different religious perspectives attached to it. Every destination, building, road and shore told a story of the past, including different eras of different people who inhabited the land.
Archaeology exists on every corner and around ever bend in Israel. Cultural and religious infusions, bright and colorful, soft and loud, permeate the land. I always felt in awe as I would walk along the Roman ruins of ancient Caesarea, travel through the churches of Jerusalem, sit on the mountains of the Judean desert or stroll the beach ruins of Apollonia, just to name a few moments.
And while I was experiencing these places, I would realize this moment has been experienced for centuries by others in different ways. I am here now walking where my ancestors lived and worked, grew and flourished, fought and died. It was so inspiring for me that I was able, in my awe of the reality of where I was, in the moment, to embrace that moment and truly enjoy my life. It didn’t matter that I was homeless at the time; I even found freedom and blessings in that experience. I was so much aware of what was going on around me that I became both the giver and receiver of opportunity in choosing how to embrace the moment.
One morning I was backing out of a driveway in the city of Ra’anana and I bumped into another car. To my surprise, a very huge man got out of this little mini Minor and was very distraught. It seems he had borrowed his parents’ car and now there was a dent in the door. I became frightened. Something inside of me became very calm because it was apparent I was going to take care of the damage I caused.
He was distraught and, as I apologized and gave him my information, something in my mind noticed a book sitting on the front seat of my car. The book was The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. After many apologies, exchanges of information and a calmed motorist, I handed him the book and said: “Something in this moment brings up the thought to pass this on to you. I don’t know why. It’s a good book.” The man took the book, a week later his car was repaired and that was that.
Fast forward two years later. I am driving in Ra’anana and a car comes up behind me, honking and honking, and a man is trying to flag me down. I was somewhat scared but pulled over to the side of the road. A huge man gets out of the car — maybe about 6-foot 7 or 8 (I’m only 5-foot 3) — and grabs me and twirls me in the air saying: “It’s you! It’s you! You changed my life. I saw you and had to stop you to thank you.” LOL — I was beyond relieved because having an almost 7-foot strange man lift you up and twirl you in the air is a bit intimidating.
It turns out this was the man I had hit two years ago. He was at a big crossroad in his life (professional basketball and future life decisions) and, in reading the book, he had some personal realizations that brought him into the here and now. He realized he was living in his past. I was surprised and happy I had unknowingly set up the possibility for influence and realized two years had gone by and, in this moment with this man, paying attention to the previous moment with him, created a butterfly effect that changed the course of someone’s life. We said our goodbyes and continued on our separate paths.
Every day we meet people in random ways — we get caught up in the movie, pull out of the movie. Be the best version of your self in the moment, attend to it in a mindful way and profound things will happen not only for your own self but also for others as well.
Our mind is like a lighthouse and we are able to focus that light either inward to our thinking or outward to the moment. Outward to the moment is much more rewarding. Use your focus to bring yourself into the present. Focusing on your breath brings you into the ever-present moment.
Example: We wake up in the morning and go to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee. As we are making the coffee, we are contemplating drinking it or what we will do today, or some thinking left over from last night — none of that is here and now. Here and now consists of the sensory experience of noticing your movements while making the coffee — the sounds, smells, feeling your body, noticing what your hands are doing. This is being in the moment.
Spend today noticing how much of your time is spent elsewhere and try to refocus to the current moment.
Lori Gordon-Michaeli LCSW