BEING PRESENT-GETTING PAST THE PAST
I recently wrote on PTSD: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD is the aftermath of an experience that has left us traumatized; it is our reaction to what happened to us that can completely take over our lives. We can experience everything from mind numbness to impending doom. Unable to let go of the past keeps us in a prison of our own making. Once we are aware that we are suffering, then we must learn to stop the suffering. For we are not meant to stay stuck in the past; we cannot be happy or make others happy. We cannot enjoy watching others be happy. It is a joyless life. Staying “stuck” in the past becomes a selfish act. Selfishness is at the root of all suffering.
Relationship is the basis of human existence. The consequences of being hurt are that you bring the hurt into each relationship, each encounter with another.
Everyone you meet, every time you speak, you bring the past into your conversation. The person has nothing to do with the past hurt you experienced yet you continue to react as though it still exists. It does. As it exists in you, it exists in others. You may have been deeply hurt in the past and have spent many years suffering because of it. You may say, I cannot continue like this. Life is too painful. In order to live in the present moment seems impossible. But it is only impossible because you have “invested” so many years to suffering. You re-live your hurt, daily. It has become a habit. You may call it your “lot in life”- your “fate.” It is not. It is your conditioned response, a warm blanket to hide under, a place of refuge, your secret place. It does not welcome strangers nor does it tolerate confrontation. It’s a closed book. Nobody reads it but you. Living in a painful past does not welcome relationships. So, how can you live in the present moment with so much baggage to carry? Lose the baggage–all of it. Good and bad must fall away. Pleasant memories are ok, sometimes. But dwelling ANYWHERE is dangerous. When you are thinking of the past, you cannot be in the present moment. It is impossible to be in two places at one time; you can only be in one place. We know what happens when we dwell on a bad memory-pain, sadness, anger, fear etc.
What are the benefits of “being present”? Improved relationships, good communication, deeper understanding, peace, awareness, happiness and joy are available to anyone.
Being present sounds like a good idea but how many of us are actually present; all the time?
Steps to learning how to be present:
1. Learn to listen.
When you listen, you catch up quickly, you don’t have to have a lot of explanations, analyses and descriptions; you are flowing with each other. We are talking together as two friends sitting in a park, or in a wood, quiet, birds are singing, there’s plenty of light coming through the leaves on the floor and there is a sense of appreciation of beauty. When you listen, the miracle takes place.
2 . Learn to meditate.
So what happens when you sit down to meditate? You place your attention on the present moment. First, you must desire freedom from suffering. You must be willing to surrender all of your pre-conceived ideas. Then, you must train yourself, with all your strength, to stop your mind from thinking while you sit in perfect silence. Of course, it is a struggle when you begin. Your thinking mind will fight you every inch of the way. You become who you are, in the moment. You see, but not with your eyes or memory or dreams about the future. Seeing into the Present, you are aware of your connection to all humanity, the earth, sky, and all the creatures. Staying focused on one object, like your breath going in and going out, without reacting to stimuli whatsoever, when done daily for at least 20 minutes, will eventually create calmness to a point where you are in control of your own mind instead of it controlling you.
Warning: If you do not understand the basis of life, our everyday reactions or behavior, your meditation will have no meaning whatsoever.
3. Be an observer.
Learn to observe and not react. Do not form an opinion, do not relate what you observe with anything at all. Just allow the coming and going of what you observe like watching clouds move across the sky. Whether it is observing your own steps, an angry person yelling, the t.v. or your own wandering thoughts, simply watch the activity and let it go. Leave no trace.
4. Question everything.
If you are lonely, look at that loneliness, understand the depth of it, the nature of it. Loneliness is total isolation which is brought about through our daily activity of selfish ambitions or ideological ambitions, competitions, each one out for himself. Those are the activities which bring about loneliness. Most of us have no passion. We lust, we have ambition, we want to get rich and we put our energies into that. We call that passion. But those activities cause sorrow. The very word `sorrow’ etymologically means passion. Only with the ending of sorrow there is passion. Passion is total energy, not limited by thought. So it is important to understand the nature of suffering and the ending of it. The ending of it is to hold that sorrow, that pain, too. Look at it. It is a marvelous thing to know how to hold the pain and look at it, be with it, live with it, not get bitter, cynical, but to see the nature of sorrow. There is beauty in that sorrow, depth in that sorrow.
Listening, meditating, observing and questioning are conscious acts we take now so that one day, these actions will be natural movements we make through life.
One begins to see very clearly that all human beings bear the same burden, share the same sorrow; not a particular sorrow, not the sorrow of one’s son dying or brother dying, or the wife or the husband leaving, but the sorrow which man has accumulated for thousands of years. Your sorrow is the sorrow of mankind. Put your total energy into being present.