Maybe you’ve read Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. Maybe you’ve studied a lot of Eastern spiritual philosophy and the idea of the present moment is very agreeable to you. Or maybe you’ve worked on blocking out your busy thinking in an effort to find that magical gap of peace known as Now. It can be a tricky concept to wrap our heads around, so for those still struggling with the idea, I offer you this metaphor in the hopes that it will help you appreciate the subtle quality that gives almost all of the value to what I’m describing.
Imagine that you are walking along a road with your phone in your hand. You have two fundamental choices: look up and around at the world you are currently walking through, or look down at your phone. Note that one of these choices is real and the other is virtual. Because no one is going to contact you on your phone about Now, except maybe to ask you where “you” are. But if it’s on your phone it’ll almost certainly be about a time other than Now. You’ll be planning a future meeting or talking about what happened on the weekend. Text, call, watching a video—it’s all you focusing on times other than Now. Being on the phone equals not being present.
So if the world is the road, then sometimes you’re walking uphill and sometimes you’re walking downhill. Sometimes life needs more of your effort to move you forward and sometimes you’re moving downhill and control is needed more than effort. It’s always changing and everyone is always on the road. Everyone is always taking steps whether they realize it or not. So if you’re alive then you are taking steps. The question is, are you watching where you’re going or are you looking at your phone? Are you paying attention to the choices available in the present moment or are you passing that by as you invest your consciousness in things past and future?
If you’re looking at the future or past instead of watching where you’re going then your odds of tripping and falling increase greatly. Not only will you trip more often, you’ll also realize that—in looking down so much—you have undoubtedly walked right past a lot of valuable intersections where you could have changed the direction of your life in a positive and significant way. But we miss all of those chances if we’re too occupied with talking about our past or how we’re afraid to re-live it in our future.
Life is going to give you an amazing number of chances. People we call lucky or successful are merely the people who were tuned into Now. They are awake and aware to make their choices. Most of us can look backwards and find lots of examples of times where we did not pursue our opportunities as much as we later wish we would have. So stay conscious. Don’t assume that you’re missing out by not being where you already are. Your life is always where you are in the present moment. The only question is how awake are you to that moment and how much of your consciousness is dedicated to other places and other times?
Be present. Don’t claim life isn’t giving you what you need if you’re not even watching for what it’s presenting you. Because no future or past opportunity can come close to the value of any opportunity for which you are present and available to make a conscious choice. That will make the sort of difference in your life that everyone is seeking.
Accept that that road will have its ups and downs. Accept that the view won’t always be good, so yes use your phone to delve into the happier parts of your past when you need to. But don’t live there. The present moment has far too much to offer. So good or bad, no memory will add as much value to your total enjoyment of life as being awake and aware for the present moment. Stop the noise of your busy thinking and the noise of the outside world. Dive through media and social norms and get into where life truly happens. Pay attention to where you are, when you are, and you will guide your life with the clarity of authenticity.
Start right now. Pick times to check your phone and otherwise switch it off. Learn to get back into the here and now. Because otherwise it seems crazy to complain about not feeling good. Especially when we’re making choices that would naturally lead to us not feeling good. We just have to get conscious and make better choices. So, instead of “have a great day,” I’ll finish off with, “have an awesome collection of Now-moment choices.”
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.