Come Back to Now

If there is one certainty, it is that my mind will wander, my thoughts will go to wild places, and my emotions will follow. That process will continue to varying degrees for the rest of my life. I accept this, but that does not mean I will stop trying to break the pattern and bring my mind back to a still place as much as I can remember to do so.

My meditations and my life are filled with opportunities to practice this challenge.

My regular twice-a-day meditation practice is a good means to break the patterns of mind.

But life is where the action is. My life is always at the right place at the right time. Free will is extended to us as creators. We can choose how we think, behave, act, judge, accept, reject, speak, not speak, question, engage, withdraw, or not question anything we encounter in life. We have never-ending choices as long as we are alive. As I wrote in my last blog, we make choices all day long, hundreds of them. Most are made unconsciously out of a subtle fear to avoid pain and discomfort or to remain in the preserved safety of the familiar.

Sometimes I start my day with a lofty goal, by declaring that I will remain present, I will notice when I am lost in thought, and I will release my thoughts, stay focused on what is in front of me, and follow my heart. This is my main goal/intention for the day; everything else is secondary.

Good intentions for sure. However, I soon realized I could not stay with it very long, so I reset my intention to practice remembering to be present as much as I can throughout my day. I have no destination or finish line; it is a continual practice in which I do my best to live life in a certain manner—being conscious in the moment.

If I get lost in thought, which I surely will, I do not abandon my intention, although it can set me back if I am lost in prolonged emotional turmoil. There are degrees of how distracted and emotionally distracted I can be. It is not easy to step out of those patterns. Nevertheless, I don’t give up my practice; I notice that I am lost in thought, mental stories, and emotional turbulence.

I remember I have free will, but I am not exercising that right. I have allowed my ability to choose to be hijacked by my mind. My mind is happy to perform that role, and why not? It has for most of my life. It is a powerfully ingrained pattern.

How much am I willing to allow my mind to keep me unconscious? It is not a quick answer or solution where I decide and it is done. It is a decision based on an intention that must be accompanied by a commitment with no end. I will succeed, and I will be distracted, and this will repeat again and again.

Returning to my day where I have set my intention to be present, I go about my day and do my best to meet whatever shows up. Some of my day’s activities are predictable, as I have specific plans to do things or go somewhere that may include interacting with others. But no matter what I am doing, it remains the same; my prime goal is that I am practicing presence. There is an ebb and flow; sometimes I’m lost in thought, and sometimes I’m present, and that is okay and normal.

Being present and using the six heart virtues in our daily practice

“The individual, day-to-day practice is not glamorous compared to the group performance, and yet a beautiful and inspiring performance cannot succeed in the absence of daily practice.”
John Berges, When, Which, How, pg 12

Even though some things are predictable, doing those things can be unpredictable. For example:

The other day I was driving to my art studio to continue working on some unfinished sculptures. It was a beautiful day, and I was looking forward to being at the studio for a few hours. I love the peace and quiet of my studio; it is a wonderful place to be present.

But I am in life. Life is linear as we know it, and in order to be at my studio, I need to travel to get there. Driving my car is life, as any moment is, and all moments are an opportunity to practice my intention. What could go wrong?

While driving my car to my studio, I noticed a big truck was behind me very close. I checked to see if I was driving too slow, but I was driving just above the speed limit.

This is the part of the movie where my mind makes its entrance in dramatic fashion. I begin to get angry at this person who is following me too close. I start judging him, making up all kinds of scenarios as to who this @#$&!..ing person is. I think about pulling over to allow them to pass, but there is no shoulder to pull over. I speed up a little to add space between us, to no avail. I’m getting angrier, and my patience is running out. I can feel the tension in my body tighten up. I am lost in thought and emotional turmoil, and I am resisting life. I am saying no to the universe.

In a flash, I remember my intention! This is an opportunity to practice presence. I want to stay angry; I feel I have the right; this “shouldn’t” be happening to me.

I take a breath and relax the best I can. I apply compassion to myself as this situation is not easy. I try to forgive this person, but I don’t want to, so I move on for now. I try to understand why this person does this and ask myself if I have done this. Yes, I have to admit. So, humility enters my awareness, and forgiveness is a little easier now. If I have done this to other drivers, I ask myself, why would I do this? And the answer may be that I may have been distracted or unconscious at the time and did not realize that I was too close to the car in front of me. So, I can understand how someone can do this and not realize what they are doing.

As I run through this in my mind, the tension eases, and my anger is diminished. I feel good about the shift in my mental and emotional state. I glanced in the rearview mirror and noticed the truck had turned off and was no longer following me.

It was a very short encounter, but a significant one and a wonderful opportunity to practice taking responsibility for my state of presence. I could not change the driver. But I can choose to change my reaction. The heart virtues offer me a way to see a larger picture through the eyes of love. We always have free will to choose between fear and love.

I could have arrived at my studio angry and stressed out, but I didn’t. I chose differently. I was relaxed, and I appreciated the opportunity to practice being present and conscious.

Consequently, I had a very productive and peaceful time at the studio and accomplished everything I wanted to do that the universe provided me with.

Being in the now seems obvious for optimum living, but there are endless distractions, inner and outer, which in turn are opportunities to ground our consciousness in the present moment. That is life; the question is, how much of my life am I awake?

“There are only two behaviors of the Sovereign Integral. They are expressed together: love and free will. These two behaviors become phenomena when they wear the clothes of gratitude, compassion, understanding, and so on, but before they become that—visible to the dual worlds in words and actions—they exist in the Sovereign Integral consciousness as love and free will entwined”
James Mahu, The Sovereign Integral, pg 74

 

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