If Not Now, When? The Beauty of Living in the Moment
When we were in England, Ed was one day chatting with a Buddhist nun named Avis. Ed said, "Some day we will all die and meet in heaven." And Avis replied, "Yeah, and we'll look at each other and say, 'What was that all about?!'" It made Ed really value the present moment by realizing that only this is real!
Normally, you spend your time living either in what-could-have-been or what-might-have-been or if-only, or in the expectation of what-could-be or what-might-be. Of course, you can learn from the past. As challenging as it may be, the most painful experience often turns out to be your best teacher, and you may feel enormous gratitude that you learned so much. However, memories can also be like comfortable old shoes you are reluctant to part with. You put them on now and then to enjoy the familiarity, but you do not have to wear them every day. Ed trained at the Bihar School of Yoga in India, and one day his teacher looked at him and said, "Man's memory is like a fool's paradise!" Constantly living in either the past or the future is like being in a dream, because it limits your capacity to be in the wonder of the present, just being with what is happening right now.
Why life is ever-changing
You can stay open to these moments of change by simply being aware of them. Right now, just stop and take a deep breath. As you breathe out, just notice how your body feels, the chair you are sitting on, the room you are in. That's all. It takes only a moment to be in the present.
Contrary to common belief, it can be immensely liberating to have nothing going on but this very moment: To discover that this whole world, this whole universe, is contained in this moment. To realize that nothing more is required of you than to just be fully here, aware and present. What a relief! Finally, you can experience this reality just as it is, without expectation, prejudice or longing, and without the desire for something to be different. Someone once asked Ed if he had ever experienced another dimension. He replied, "Have you experienced this one?"
Simply being still in this moment—without attachment to, or thought of, before or after—invites a deep sense of completion, the feeling there really is nowhere else you need to be or go. It is stepping into sanity and, more importantly, into even greater connectedness. It is impossible to think of somewhere else as being better, because the grass is vividly green exactly where you are. And if you don't do this now, then when?
How to meditate in the moment
When you meditate by watching the breath entering and leaving, it naturally brings you into being in the present. The breath is just breathing, nothing more. And yet each breath is completely different from the last one. The breath draws you inward, and then you share it with the world as you breathe outward. You can repeat silently, "I am here; I am now; I am present! I am here; I am now; I am present!"
Your experience is just this, vibrant and rich. When you are fully present, the world you live in becomes extraordinary, as if being seen and heard and touched for the first time, for you are without preconceived ideas or desires. There is just the experience. Like a child making the unknown known, you are simply with what is, while also impelled to know it more intimately, to explore and understand...even to become it.
Practice: Breath Awareness Meditation
Sit comfortably with your back straight; hands are in your lap, eyes are closed. Spend a few minutes settling your body, being aware of the room around you and the chair you are sitting on.
Now bring your focus to your breathing: Just watch the natural movement of air as you breathe in and out. Silently repeat, "Breathing in, breathing out."
Stay with watching your breath. If your mind starts to drift, just see your thoughts as birds in the sky and watch them fly away. Then come back to the breath.
Anytime you get distracted, bored or stressed, just come back to the breath, to this moment now. Silently repeat, "I am here; I am now; I am present! I am here; I am now; I am present!"
You can do this for a few minutes, or as long as you like. When you are ready, take a deep breath and let it go, open your eyes and move gently.
Ed and Deb Shapiro are the authors of Be The Change, How Meditation Can Transform You and the World. They are featured weekly contributors to Oprah.com, HuffingtonPost.com and Care2.com. Ed and Deb write Sprint's The Daily CHILLOUT inspirational text messages. They have three meditation CDs: Metta: Loving Kindness and Forgiveness, Samadhi: Breath Awareness and Insight and Yoga Nidra: Inner Conscious Relaxation. Deb is also the author of the best-selling book Your Body Speaks Your Mind, winner of the 2007 Visionary Book Award.
Keep Reading More from Ed and Deb Shapiro:
Is meditation your friend or enemy?
Why meditation is the greatest gift you can give yourself
How meditation can calm your mind