How to “Be Here Now”?
You hear it tossed about all time: “just be,” “be in the now,” “be present.”
Intellectually, many of us get it that being present is the end of suffering. If my mind is focused on the future (which it can’t control) or focused on the past (which it can’t control), I suffer. So it makes sense: be “in the now” and I will feel better.
The theory is good, and there’s some experience to back it up. Ask any athlete who has experienced “the zone.” But most of us have only tasted a little of the power of now.
How Do You Experience More of It?
Most of us try to be more present by reminding ourselves to be here now. When we notice we are in the future or the past, we try to come back to what is going on in front of us.
This is a helpful meditation, but it usually only goes so far. Before long, the mind is right back into the future or the past.
It can end up being a struggle to try to keep the mind present. And in the end, it’s just easier to let the mind keep reviewing the future again, or keep mulling over the past again. So we give up “being here now” until we read another book about it, or go on another retreat and try again.
But There Is Another Way
If trying to bring the mind back to the present is not easy, it’s good to look at what makes it so hard. Why does the mind keep going back to the past and future? I know it’s less stressful to be present. Why can’t I do it?
The reason is that I am believing my thoughts. I truly believe that “I need to figure out what to do.” I literally believe that “I need to be sure that never happens again.” I am believing a whole list of things about the past and future. And because I believe them, I feel obliged to go into the future or the past and try to work things out there.
In other words, when I’m believing my thoughts, there is no choice. I can try to be more present, but my mind will overrule my intentions and bring me back to what it believes is really important: the past or the future.
The Way I Prefer Is: “Not to Try to Be More Present”
Rather than trying to change the effect, I prefer to deal with the cause. The cause of not being present is what I’m believing. When I question what I believe, and my stories start to fall away, then I don’t have such an urgent need to be in the future or the past.
Without my story, my mind naturally settles back to where it is: in the present.
The method I use for questioning my thinking is The Work of Byron Katie. These 4 questions and turnarounds and turnaround examples quickly cut through any exaggeration, for false notions I may have. This often leaves me feeling free again.
It Feels Irresponsible to “Be Present” when I’m a Believer
When I’m believing my story that “I need to make more money,” for example, to sit and “be present” feels irresponsible. It feels like putting my head in the sand, pretending everything is okay when it is not.
Inquiry is different than that. Inquiry means looking square in the face of the story, “I need to make more money.” And seeing what is true and what is not true. Maybe it is a half-truth. Maybe it’s not true at all. I’ll find out when I do my work.
And maybe it really is true. But when I question it and see the actual financial situation, ironically I become much more present. I see exactly how it is. And when I do, I see the next step to take in dealing with it.
This is the end of spinning endlessly in my mind and the beginning of a little peace: either I do have enough money so I can relax, or I don’t have enough money and I know what the next thing is to try.
Here Are the Kinds of Thoughts that Kill “Being Here”
You’ll find millions of them. Identifying any thought will do to begin this process of self-inquiry. One of my favorite ways is to simply make a list of wants and needs:
I need to make more money.
I want to be her friend.
I need to be more present (yes this one can be questioned too).
I need him to pay attention to me.
I want her to give me a promotion.
I need a break!
I want him to listen to me.
I need her to still be alive.
If you find a specific situation about another person that pulls your mind out of the present, try writing a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet to get even more of those thoughts on paper so they can be questioned.
This practice of questioning my stressful thoughts about anything has become a regular part of my life. The more I do it, the more present I become. Join me in gradually retiring from the stories that keep you everywhere but here. It’s a process but, in my experience, this approach is very effective.
The Work 101 Registration Closes This Week
If you want to make this kind of self-inquiry a practice for yourself, or just want to try it out, join us for The Work 101, my online course for learning and practicing The Work of Byron Katie. Registration closes soon, so don’t delay.
Have a great week,
“What I love about The Work is that it allows you to go inside and find your own happiness, to experience what already exists within you, unchanging, immovable, ever-present, ever-waiting.” Byron Katie, Loving What Is
Further reading: The Mind Needs To Be Heard Before It’s Willing To Shift