You hear it all the time. Live in the moment. Be present. Be here, now. Spiritual heavyweights like Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, Ram Dass and scores of others have preached this to their flocks for decades.
And many of you have tried it. You sit in your backyard and say to yourself, “Okay. Let’s be present. Right here. Right now. Just looking at the trees. Listening to the birds…Crap. I’m so not here.”
Your mind crashes the party in two seconds, bombarding you with thoughts. You get frustrated. Give up and start thinking about your job review the next morning. Bye, bye trees. Bye, bye birdies.
Easier said than done
Just be present. It’s the epitome of the old adage “easier said than done.” Bottom line: it ain’t easy.
Why? The obvious and correct answer is that our minds love to think and wander. Later I’ll describe a long-term solution for taming your active mind.
But for now, let’s deal with how you can improve your ability to become present in any moment you choose.
How NOT to become present
First, it’s important to know what doesn’t work. It’s the thing that most people do when they want to enter the present moment. They go for the direct entry. “Okay, I’m in my backyard. Let’s be present…”
To explain why this doesn’t work, let’s imagine that the present moment is a room and there is a door you need to walk through to get inside. The person attempting the direct entry is too large to fit through the door.
What makes that person too big to fit through the door? Tension. Holding on to feelings. Resisting the reality of their life situation. Think of all that as creating inflammation that puffs the body up.
Letting go is the key
So how do you shrink enough to fit through the door? You shed all of those things. You let go of all feelings of tension and tightness. Let go of any and all resistance you’re feeling in that moment. You surrender to everything that is happening in that moment.
If any of that sounds confusing, I have good news. Because practically speaking, all you need to do to scale down so you can walk through the door and into the present moment can be summed up in one word: Relax.
Here is a specific relaxation technique I use that helps me get through the door. I close my eyes and visualize my hands squeezing some unseen tension. Then I see my hands go completely limp and let go. I then see myself slowly drift away from the tension, completely relaxed.
How to actually become present
Let’s run through a full example. You want to experience some presence in your day. You walk out to your backyard.
You sit. Close your eyes. Take three, long, deep breaths. Then visualize yourself clenching your hands onto the unseen tension/”stuff” you’re holding onto. Then see yourself let go and drift away from the tension.
Then say to yourself, “I give up. I surrender to everything going on inside me, in the world and to everything happening right now in this moment. I accept everything exactly as it is.”
Take one more deep breath.
Then open your eyes. Look around. See the trees. The plants. The sky. Don’t think about them or say to yourself, “Wow, the sky has such a beautiful, pink hue!” Just experience all this as your highest self, which is simply pure consciousness. Which is just…
Present moment awareness.
This is the indirect way into the present moment. It’s the best and easiest way to get through the door.
Now all of the preceding has dealt with “I want to be present right now. In this moment.” And that is a critical, healthy skill to develop.
Becoming naturally present
But of infinitely greater importance is improving your ability to be naturally more present. In other words, to get to a place where you already fit through the door because you’ve already shed the “stuff” that is preventing you entry into the present.
And that, my friends, requires work. It’s the work of a lifetime. It’s also the most important work you can do.
Meditation is most effective
If you’ve read my previous work, I know I’ll sound like a broken record here, but the best practice you can develop to propel you forward on this journey is meditation. Why? Because all meditation is is practicing being in the present moment.
Is it easy? No. Especially in the beginning. But just like playing the piano or learning French, the more you do it, the better you get at it.
Give it a shot. It could be the greatest thing you ever do for yourself.
Subtract, don’t add
Finally, what I’ve said here is that you don’t need to add anything to the present moment to gain access to it. You need to subtract, by shedding tension, etc.
The same principle applies to the totality of spiritual growth. It’s never about adding to yourself, in the way of reading great spiritual books or doing daily affirmations or eating the right foods, etc. All those things can be helpful.
Be like Michelangelo
But true spiritual growth comes from shedding your “stuff.” Imagine yourself as Michelangelo. He took a massive block of marble and chiseled away, day after day, for over two years, at the end of which he gave the world the sublime statue of David. His process consisted of subtracting small pieces of marble, by the thousands, in a quest to unearth the divinity that lay deep within the originally massive block.
Your block of marble is your entire psyche, within which exists a David-like masterpiece. The chiseling required to access that masterpiece consists of thousands of instances of subtracting, or letting go of, your stuff.
And what is your “stuff”? Anything that isn’t you. Anything that isn’t your true self.
Again, there’s no adding to be done — just letting go. And letting go. And letting go.
Letting go. It’s how you access the present moment. And it’s how you access the true, beautiful genius David inside you.