As William and Charmaine moved through the park toward his favorite bench, he noticed that the park seemed alive with activity. William’s heart was opening to the flow of life all around him. The colors seemed more vibrant, the scents more heady and the sounds –well, they were downright joyous to him! ere was a mixed chorus of birds singing their sweet melodies. Couples held hands and laughed together. Children played happily. And for the first time in a very long time he felt like he had a new friend!
“Charmaine, you were going to tell me what you mean by a ‘moment of now’?”
She walked ahead a short distance and stopped at William’s favorite bench.
“Imagine your whole life is a movie, William,” she began. “And imagine that each and every moment of your entire life, from the moment of your birth to this second, is stored on that roll of film. Now imagine that each frame of that film is one moment of now. ere are millions, billions of them. inking of life and time in this linear way makes it easier for our mind to understand. Actually, it is a constant flow, like a river.”
“Each frame of the movie is a moment of now?”
“It’s a helpful image, isn’t it? Being present in a moment of now is being aware of a single frame of that movie as it’s happening. It’s the awareness of the stream of our thoughts and physical sensations. It’s being open to life. It’s seeing with fresh eyes. It’s listening to really hear rather than to plan what we will say or do next. It’s being aware of all of our senses - touch, taste and smell, sound – wholly absorbed, totally present and completely involved. Being fully present in a moment of now is looking at everything as if you are seeing it for the first time. Remember when you were a child, in those wonderful moments when you felt curious, carefree, excited and safe?”
“That’s the quality of being fully present.”
“I can see the benefit of being present in moments of now, Charmaine. I think some of my anxiety and not being fully in the moment happens when I’m worrying about what I’ll say next. I feel a need to fill the air with talk. I think I’ve been afraid of silence. I think people will like me less if I’m not a good conversationalist. I don’t think I’ve even been present with myself when I’m alone. Recently, most of my moments of now have been pretty discouraging - which usually haven’t given me much hope for moments in the future.”
“The key to living in each moment, William, is understanding that all we ever really have in this life is right now,” she answered. “Oops, that moment is gone. Here comes another. ere it goes. And now here is another one... “
“I can see that staying in the moment would take some practice,” said William.
“Yes, it does. To really appreciate being in the moment, you’re not thinking about yesterdays and tomorrows. You’re not living in the past and imagining the uncertainties of the future.”
“But isn’t knowledge of what happened in the past necessary to plan for the future?”
“Understanding the experience of the past and the possibilities of the future while being fully present is where you’ll find your passion and your purpose. So you see, William, planning isn’t the problem. e problem is that we’re usually thinking of things not related to what we’re doing in the moment. Our attention is elsewhere. Some of the barriers to being fully present in the moment and that cause much of our suffering are longing, doing too much for too long, over indulging, being over stimulated and generally living excessively. We tend to do too much and not live enough. We just forget to live in the moment.”
“That’s me,” William laughed. “Have you been spying on me?” “It’s not just you,” Charmaine said, winking. “We all do it.” “Well, that’s comforting - I think.”
“Usually,” she continued, “the pilot running the show is our ‘reactive’ or ‘conditioned’ mind, or the ‘ego’. When the conditioned mind is in gear, we tend to behave either from past memory or future uncertainty. is seems necessary to our ego in order to stay in control and feel safe. But the ego tends to judge, compare, label and assign fault or blame. It promotes fear in our lives. A mind not fully in the moment makes us susceptible to worry, anxiety, regret, depression, guilt and resentment. at robs us of the chance to appreciate what’s happening in the present, which if you will remember, is all there is.”
“Living in the moment would certainly simplify things, wouldn’t it?” William asked as he imagined living his own life a moment at a time.
“It has for me,” said Charmaine. “But our ego colors it in ways that rob the magic from the moment. The more thinking we do, with our conditioned mind running the show, the further from the moment we get, from the natural flow of our life. Our mind wants to escape from the moment so it can feel in control. And to the degree our ego is at the controls is the degree we are likely to miss the full impact and meaning of the present, which again...”
“...is all we have,” William finished her sentence like a student who has done his homework.
“So, if we aren’t aware of what’s going on in our mind, we end up floating through life on auto pilot.”
“But don’t we sometimes need to be on auto-pilot,” William asked. “That’s what allows me to do more than one thing at a time, like driving to work while thinking about something far away.”
“Yes.” Charmaine replied. “There’s nothing wrong with being on auto pilot. It can actually be a very efficient way to operate. The idea here is to be aware of being on auto-pilot. We can learn to be aware of our thoughts, especially the ones that keep playing over and over in our heads. What happens inside you is much more important than what happens outside you.”
“Hmm,” he said reflectively. “That’s worth thinking about.”
“So it’s important to be conscious of your thoughts. Notice when you’re thinking about the past or the future so you can interrupt unproductive rambling and redirect it to the present. Develop the habit of moving away from continual and incessant negative patterns of thinking so that you are alert and totally with what’s happening now. Being present to your own experience of life as it is happening can produce wonderful results.”
“Remember, we find our peace and clarity in moments of now. It’s in the present moment that we are in touch with our intuition, our creativity, our gentleness and our strength. This place is the very source of our life energy and our real power. It is in the moments of now where you will find the doorway to your soul!”
“Is there an easy way to get into the moment?” William asked. “I understand the inner mind stuff a little bit more now, but do you know a practical way to get there?”
“Well, besides being a witness to your thoughts, you could be a witness to your body,” Charmaine suggested.
William turned and looked wryly at the extra weight he knew he was carrying. “I witness my body all right. Every day in the mirror!”
Charmaine chuckled. “That’s not exactly what I had in mind. Body awareness - free of judgment of how you feel or how you look - can also keep you in touch with yourself in moments of now. It’s a foolproof way to get out of those fruitless think-cycles we sometimes get caught up in.”
“How’d you know I do that?”
“We all do it,” she said, patting him gently on the shoulder. “Just take a moment to feel the energy within yourself.”
“Sure. One excellent way to tune into your body is to focus your attention on your breathing.”
William closed his eyes and took a deep, relaxing breath. “Okay, I’m focusing.”
“Notice what parts of your body move as you allow your body to effortlessly breathe itself. If you can identify with the observer - the witness deep within, rather than with what you are observing - your physical body, for just even a few moments, you may notice you don’t actually have to think about breathing at all. Your body knows how to breathe just fine, without any help from you. You become the loving witness from way deep down inside, simply noticing what it feels like to allow your body to breathe itself. Especially focus your attention on the naturalness of your exhalations. Practice softening and letting go with each breath.”
“What has to soften? I’m not sure how to do that.”
“Soften your eyes, your tongue and your belly. To soften your eyes, close them and then imagine gazing effortlessly, allowing them to be out of focus with nothing to see. To soften your tongue, imagine allowing it to become heavy and loose in your mouth. It’s just lying there with nothing to say. There’s a feeling of releasing any tension and simply letting go. Just see if you can willingly let go of any tension especially in those areas of your body. If you feel willing to soften but your body doesn’t seem to be cooperating, it’s sometimes helpful to first really tighten all the muscles around your eyes, tongue and belly. Then take a breath and soften again as you let go of holding on to your breath. Softening those areas can be a key to relaxing your entire body. And you really can’t mentally and emotionally ‘let go’ and get fully present if your body is ‘up tight’.
“And how do I ‘let go’ of a breath?”
“Letting go of a breath is neither to hold back the exhalation nor to force it out. Simply allow your breath to naturally fall out of your body.”
“I think I can do that, Charmaine. That’s like doing nothing. Just let it happen on its own.”
“Exactly. Focus your attention on your body when you’re at work, in your relationships and even when you’re enjoying beauty, like a magnificent sunset. For example, I notice that when I think I’m listening to another person, if I’m not exhaling effortlessly, I’m really not listening. I’m either waiting, judging or comparing. Use your breath as an indicator of your availability to be truly present to your- self or to others. Notice what happens when you feel anxious, worried, depressed or angry, and what your conditioned mind is thinking that causes those feelings.”
“Oh,” William said. “You don’t want to know what I think when I feel that way!”
“What happens in your body when you feel anxious, for example?”
“Let’s see, well, for starters I can see that I’m probably holding my breath. I sometimes start pacing, I often lose my appetite and my heart races, I guess.”
“Isn’t it usually when you’re resisting, judging, being impatient or making unfair comparisons that you feel this way?”
“Yes, I suppose... What are you getting at, Charmaine?”
“Body awareness. Your body will tell you a lot about what’s going on. For example, when you are anxious, worried, afraid or angry, notice the dryness in your mouth, or the tightness in your eyes, your jaw or your belly. Notice if there is a heaviness in your chest or a tiredness in your shoulders. Notice if there is a pounding in your head. Practice paying attention to signals from your body. Learn to recognize when your body is tight and when it is relaxed. Awareness is the key to choosing to let go and being more fully present.”
“But how do I do it?”
“It’s not a doing. Actually, it’s more of an un-doing - a letting go of doing anything. There really is nothing to do. It’s about being the witness. Take a breath and as you exhale begin to lovingly notice your body telling you what it is feeling. Be a witness to your physical sensations. As a loving witness you do not add any judgments or comparisons. There is no resistance to whatever you are aware of. You can have your physical and emotional symptoms or they will have you. Again, awareness is the key. It is in that awareness that you will find your clarity and your joy. You’ll know you are being more fully present in a moment of now by the sense of peace you feel within.
“So,” William said, a little troubled, “are you saying I’d be a better person if I were present in every moment of now? at seems impossible!”
“No. First of all, there’s nothing wrong with who you are - or who any of us are. Remember, we’re spiritual beings living in physical bodies. Our deepest nature has a Divine source. It is in our frailty as earthly creatures that we find all our flaws and struggles. But there is nothing wrong with who we are at the Divine core of our being. Not a thing.”
“Thank you, Charmaine. I needed to hear that!”
“Secondly, as creatures on this earth, it would be extremely uncommon to live in the moment all the time. It would be what’s called ‘having your act together’ or ‘total enlightenment’. I don’t know of too many people who have ‘arrived’.
“You seem pretty enlightened to me!” said William.
“Oh, I’ve been working on this for a long time and can assure you I don’t even remotely have my act together. I just know that the more fully aware and present I am in moments of now, the better my life works.”
“That’s the whole point, isn’t it?”
“Absolutely. And once you grasp its simplicity, you’ll be surprised to find you can experience more moments of now than you would have ever imagined!”
“But I think,” Charmaine continued, “it’s important not to make ourselves wrong for not being fully present all the time. It’s a part of our human condition in the real world. There are many factors that can affect your ability to be fully present.”
“Well, for me it’s important to get enough rest and to be physically active. And it makes a lot of difference if I spend some time each day in prayer or meditation or any centering practice that is designed to help me live in the moment. Volunteering and helping others in the community keeps me connected to something bigger than myself. And I like to write every day about what’s going on in my heart and my busy little mind.”
“How is writing every day helpful?”
“It frees up space in my head, creating room for me to think about other things. It helps to remind me to be grateful for what I have. It encourages me to be more clear about what I’m thinking and feeling. Our ego sometimes has a little disorder I call ‘fuzziphelia’. It’s the ‘fear of getting clear’. For example, our ego is afraid that if it got clear about what it really wants our ego would find out it can’t have it. Or if our ego got clear about what it felt about a relationship, it might have to face doing something it’s afraid to do.”
“Clarity has its own power, William. The more present I am, the more clear I am and the more effective I am in all things. is is true even if the anticipation of facing things appears difficult or scary to my ego.”
“Does that seem like a lot to think about?” Charmaine asked. “Let’s walk so we can practice being silently present in the moment. You’ve heard phrases like ‘Stop and smell the roses’ or ‘Feel the pavement beneath your feet’. Those notions are at the heart of being fully in the moment. Take in everything your eyes can see. Hear the subtle and not so subtle sounds. Notice your breathing. Be aware of all your physical sensations as you walk. Feel the energy around you. If you can be fully present in the moment you’ll experience the tranquility and peace. You’ll just feel better, William!”
They came to the tree-lined street near his place.
“Would you like to see the flowers in my yard? They need some weeding but they’re pretty.” They walked along the sidewalk to William’s place. William paused and looked at his home and neighborhood as if for the first time. Late afternoon sunlight lightly brushed a cluster of golden lilies on the far side of the house next to his. He’d never really noticed them before. A feeling of warmth and safety flooded his heart as he gazed at his home and the neighborhood surrounding him.
“I’ve taken too much for granted about this place I call home. I haven’t really been present to my neighbors. It’s like I’m seeing it with brand new eyes.”
“When you are fully present in the moment, you bring a different kind of value and meaning to what you do. If you pay total attention to simply what is, without interpretation or judgment, it gives you the power and the clarity to do your best and find your strengths. You’ll find it easier to be motivated, inspired and confident. You will be humble enough to share with others. You will see if, when and how to take appropriate action. You’ll know when to let go of the things that don’t really matter. You’ll know when and how to stand tall on the things that do matter. Do you think it might make a difference in how you feel about your work, too?”
“It sure might be interesting to find out.”
William picked a scarlet zinnia from the flowers his landlady had planted beside the front walk and handed it to Charmaine. A gentle wind swirled around them. Charmaine’s flowing skirt shifted in the breeze. She tucked the flower behind her ear and pirouetted to her own rhythms. William was charmed by her natural beauty and expression of total freedom.
“So, William, what were you aware of during our walk?”
“It was weird to notice everything I was thinking and feeling. You know, the more present I am in moments of now, the more time just seems to open up - like it’s bigger. It feels like each moment contains more. Does that make sense, Charmaine?”
“It does indeed. In fact, in this world of physical reality the more totally present you are in any given moment of now is as close to forever as you will ever get. Forever is not out there somewhere, years down the road. Forever can only be experienced in a moment of now.”
“Oh, I like that! Forever tucked deeply into each moment of now...”
“Nicely put, William. To be more fully present in any given moment of now requires two things.”
“First, it requires a skillful act of will. It is a conscious choice of letting go of the illusion of being in control and accepting that living in the moment is life-changing in a very positive way.”
“Second, it requires a willingness to surrender - to temporarily suspend holding on to things mattering, letting go of the illusion of control. Surrender your criticalness of the circumstances that you can’t do anything about. Surrender your judgments of people who have a right to be who they are.”
“Surrender is not about letting go forever. Surrender is about totally letting go in a moment of now. Our ego thinks surrender is forever - that it’s death itself, so it will try its best to get us not to do it. Our ego thinks surrendering will cause us to lose something, to risk giving up a part or all of who we are. It is afraid it will become weak and vulnerable. But it’s just the opposite. Our ego thinks it is us and thinks its survival depends on staying in control, which is an illusion. It also thinks its survival depends on getting what it needs and wants out in the world of physical reality.”
“Charmaine, can you explain more about what you mean by ego and soul. I’m feeling there is something important in this for me but I’m a little confused. I think I’m beginning to understand the gift of suffering even though I can tell it will take practice to surrender to the full extent of my feelings. And I can see that a moment of now is like one frame in the movie that is my life. I also am beginning to see the positive things that can come out of being more present. But this ego - soul thing is pretty much going right past me.”
“Would you like an apple?” she asked as she reached deep into her backpack. “It’s off my own dwarf Gravenstein.”
“Thanks! Mmm, it smells like a real apple!”
“You know what,” Charmaine said, “I think you have enough to ponder and practice for one day. Want to meet here tomorrow, late afternoon? You can show me the bridge that overlooks the city below and I’ll explain ‘soul’ and ‘ego’ in a way that I think you will under- stand. One reason that some of this seems so confusing is because many of the Eight Clues overlap. It’s difficult talking about one of them without referring to the others. I think you’ll see that it will begin to make more sense as we go.”
“Sounds good to me. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Clue #2 : “Live Your Life in Each Moment of Now.”
Being present and living in the moment is being totally absorbed and involved with all of your senses in the present. It’s not living in the past nor is it imagining the uncertainties of the future. Living in moments of now frees you from judging, comparing, labeling and assigning credit or blame. Being totally present and living in the moment relieves fear, worry, anxiety and life stress.
Each frame of ‘your’ movie is a moment of now. It is actually a flow with no lines between the frames.
Be wholly absorbed and involved with all of your senses in the present.
Be free of living in the past or imagining the uncertainties of the future.
Living in the moment frees us from judging, comparing, labeling and assigning fault or blame, without losing our capacity for discernment.
You can learn to be aware of your thoughts and your body’s feelings.
Use your breath to help you to let go and feel the moment.
Being fully present in a moment of now is as close to forever as you will ever get.
Living in the moment requires a skillful act of will to let go of the illusion of being in control.
Living in the moment requires a willingness to surrender your judgments for the moment.
Not being present in moments of now causes worry, anxiety, regret, depression, guilt and resentment.
Get enough rest. Exercise regularly. Spend some time each day in prayer or meditation. Write each day about what is going on in your heart and your mind. Find some way to express yourself daily through art, dance, music or nature.
Living in the moment is when you are totally conscious on the job and doing your best.
The Benefits of Understanding Living in Moments of Now
You will find peace and clarity in moments of now. You will get in touch with your intuition, your creativity, your gentleness and your strength. Simply, your life will work better. Once you have this concept you will be surprised to find you can experience being fully present inmore moments of now than you would ever have imagined.
# 1: “A Meditation”
This exercise is designed to help you let go and be more fully present in moments of now. At first give yourself at least 10 or 15 minutes to do this exercise. e more frequently you do this meditation the more you will be able to get into a peaceful state of being in a few minutes or even a few seconds.
The more you get into doing this meditation the more you will begin to see positive results in your life. You will notice that you naturally begin to take things a little less seriously (without losing your passion for living); you will notice you begin to take things less personally; you will notice you are listening better and are more willing to speak up and ask for what you want; you may notice your intuition is more available to you; and you are more creative in your problem solving. As you get more comfortable with the process, you may want to spend more time with it.
Get in a comfortable position. Let your body be as symmetrical as possible. (The more physically aligned your body is, the easier it is for your mind, body and spirit to be aligned as one.)
Take a breath. Begin to focus all your awareness and attention on the coming in and falling away of each breath. Don’t force it in or out. Simply allow your body to breath itself.
Feel free to readjust your body in any way that feels comfortable while keeping it as symmetrical as possible.
Begin to notice what parts of your body move as you allow your body to breathe itself effortlessly. Invite all your physical sensations to be there, exactly as they are, neither pushing them away nor holding onto them.
Be the loving observer, the witness deep within. ink of your- self as the peaceful one watching your own body breathing itself.
Practice softening with each breath. Soften your eyes, your tongue and your belly. To soften your eyes, close them and gaze effortlessly, with nothing to see. To soften your tongue, allow it to become heavy and loose in your mouth, with nothing to say. To soften your belly, bring your awareness to your abdomen and surrender, just even for a moment, to all of life - exactly the way it is. Lovingly think “soft belly”, “soft, soft belly”.
If you feel willing to soften but your body does not seem to be co- operating, it is sometimes helpful to first tighten all the muscles around your eyes, your tongue, your belly or any other place where there seems to be some tightness or resistance. Feel free to rub, squeeze or stretch those areas of your body. e distraction will usually pass away, but if they don’t, then simply invite them to be there exactly as they are. Now take a breath and soften again as you allow the air to simply fall out of your body, neither pushing it away nor holding on to it.
Notice any sounds you may hear. Lovingly invite the sounds into your awareness exactly as they are with no resistance or objection to them being there. Allow the sounds to simply flow through your awareness just like your breath - neither pushing them away nor holding on to them.
Notice any smells or odors that come into your awareness. Stay present and lovingly invite them to be there. Just like your breath, just like your physical sensations, just like the sounds, simply allow the scents to flow through your awareness, neither pushing them away nor holding on to them.
Now begin to lovingly notice any thoughts your mind might be having and any feelings or images that may arise. Invite them to be there exactly as they are - with no resistance or objection to them at all. If you notice a critical thought, then just lovingly notice that your mind had that thought. Allow your thoughts, like your breath, like your physical awareness, like the sounds, like the smells to simply flow through your awareness, neither pushing them away, nor holding on to them. ere is nothing to do now. Just be the the loving witness from deep within - fully present in each moment of now.
As a second phase of this exercise, take this practice out into your world. Go for a walk outside, preferably someplace quiet like a park or a garden. Again, begin by focusing on your breath. Stand comfortably still for a few moments. Lovingly notice whatever comes into your awareness from all of your senses. Begin to move slowly and notice the sensations of your body moving forward. Feel the souls of your feet stretching out and touching the ground under you. Notice the sound of your breath, the rustle of leaves, the sounds of other people and activities. Invite them all to be there exactly as they are, free of any judgments or comparisons. Allow all the sights, sounds, smells and the physical sensations to simply flow through your awareness, neither pushing them away, nor holding on to them.
Imagine taking this state of being with you while you’re driving. Keep focusing on your breath and on softening.
Now imagine taking this state of being with you to work. Take it with you everywhere you go. Notice what begins to happen as you keep focusing on your breath and softening.
“Stop and smell the roses. Feel the ground beneath your feet.” There is an old saying which invites you to be fully present in the moment. Having some daily exercise or centering practice will have a cumulative and positive effect on your life. It is a way to gradually deepen the baseline from which you experience your life, moment to moment. is meditation is designed specifically to help you become more fully present in each moment of now at home, at work and when you’re alone.
#2: “Free Writing”
There are many forms personal journaling can take. is is a form that focuses on the free flow of your thoughts, a journaling of your stream of consciousness. Pick a quiet, comfortable well-lit space where you will not be disturbed by background sounds or activities. It helps to do this exercise in the same place and at the same time each day. Being in this familiar environment is not a requirement but you will notice that it will help to free the flow of your thoughts and ideas.
Some people are more creative in the morning, while many people have more energy in the evenings. It doesn’t matter when you write... just do it. Many people notice that the content seems to flow more deeply if they write by hand rather than use a computer. See which works best and feels most natural to you. Give yourself 10-15 minutes a day to do this reflective exercise. Don’t worry about your grammar or your composition. It doesn’t matter how it looks.
Sit quietly for a moment. Get comfortable. Begin by closing your eyes and taking a few easy breaths.
Pick up your pen or pencil and start to write about anything that is in your awareness. Notice any distracting thoughts of feelings and write them down with no editing or censoring. Be as clear and specific as possible. is sometimes feels a little like peeling an onion, layer by layer: you won’t know what is underneath until you write exactly what is on top.
Continue to focus your attention on your breathing as you write. Become a loving witness to the thing observed, the flow of your thoughts, feelings and sensations, even as you write them down. Just let them all pour out! Don’t worry if they make sense or not.
If you choose to take a specific issue into your journaling, write down your feelings when particular events occurred and how you reacted to them. Be exact; be honest with yourself. Journaling is also a great opportunity to ask yourself questions about where you’re going, what you really want out of life, why you struggle with certain problems and what things seem to make you unhappy, stressed, lonely or angry. Then see if you can find the answers for the questions.
Writing down your thoughts forces you to articulate them into specific words. It is a way to get access to your deeper clarity and to express the feelings associated with the ideas. Expressing thoughts and feelings is a way to process them and thereby move through them and get free from any difficulties they may have caused you. In time you will find that you will see a pattern in your thoughts, feelings and experiences, and you will begin to get new insights into why you react a certain way. Journaling, like physical exercise or meditating on a regular basis, is a soul nurturing activity and over time has a powerful and positive cumulative effect.