June 2015 By Shivi Verma Life becomes a gift, an offering, when lived in the present moment. Consequently it becomes suffering and punishment when lived through the matrix of incessant thoughts. Know the power of present-moment awareness and apply it in your life, says Shivi Verma “Nothing has happened in the past; it happened in the Now. Nothing will ever happen in the future; it will happen in the Now. Realise deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.” - Eckhart Tolle Since the time I joined Life Positive three years ago, I used to be assailed by an urge to drop everything and lie down perfectly still. For the few moments that I could, I could sense an indescribable sweetness and stillness pervading my breath. I longed to get some alone time to fully experience what I was going through. But everyday chores and responsibilities kept me from plunging fully into it. I had a sense of something momentous waiting to happen. When I moved out of my marital home, I had plenty of uninterrupted time. I lay down on the mattress and surrendered. As I began to watch my breath, all my mental activities ceased for the first time in my life. The breath was ambrosia. Watching it, being with it, travelling with it, became the greatest joy I could imagine. I would get up briefly to eat something and then go back to the same position. How many hours and days fled by like this I have no recollection at all. My memory about the events around that time is a blur. What I do recall is touching a zero space around my naval. An intense awakening of the nature of multi-dimensional reality followed after that. Though that awakening left after sometime, a distinct watcher arose within me after that, who was simply overjoyed to be present in the world. The watcher could not have enough of the love, variety and beauty strewn around herself. Labelling, fearing, worrying, complaining, everything became a thing of the past. I was born again…and looking at things with a sense of wonder and discovery. I was not analysing and judging anymore to reach an understanding of things. Questions stopped and appreciation took its place. Thoughts would arise and dissolve like evanescent clouds in the sky, having no hold on me. Peace and knowingness became inextricable from my nature. Though the intensity varies from time to time, the watcher stays fixed. This watcher cares nothing for the past or future. It is too busy enjoying the present moment which is full of love and possibilities. “There are no judgements and condemnations in this state, since to do that you have to leave the state of present-moment awareness which is too precious to forsake.” – Anil Bhatnagar This is the coveted state which everybody seeks…but stays elusive because of the network of turbulent thoughts that keep a person either settled in past memories or locked into future anticipation. Says Nithya Shanti, a former monk and Happiness Joyshop facilitator, “In reality there is nothing but the present moment. What you call past and future is nothing but you believing in your thoughts. It is a wrong perception because past and future both are basically bubbles of thoughts.” Incessant thoughts soil our lives, and take us away from appreciating the beauty of the present moment, where everything is pure, pristine and beautiful. Present-moment awareness is the core of positive thinking, because in the present moment things are neither good nor bad. They simply are. They change their character on the basis of your response to them. As your awareness grows you choose positivity over negativity, choosing to see and create beauty. Says Sugandha Narayan, a lecturer from Mumbai, “The biggest takeaway of present-moment awareness is that you rarely relate to people on the basis of your past experience with them. Memories are not consulted each time you interact with them.” Why present-moment awareness The desire for present-moment awareness arises when the mind, tired of its speculations and the havoc they create, starts seeking rest, truth and solace. Thoughts arising from the ego’s search for self-validation attaches us to our personal stories. We attach meaning to people and their actions, create fears and stress, and function from the prism of stored beliefs instead of the merit of the present situation. The web of millions of thoughts criss-crossing our mind, control and shape our lives. We stay locked in the prison of memories or worries, constantly aiming to achieve a future state of happiness, or undo the wrongs of the past. Like the trees that seem to run past the hurtling train, happiness escapes its pursuers, because of the belief that it exists in the future. Says Anil Bhatnagar, corporate trainer and practitioner of mindfulness, “Such a condition is like being a chairman but not being aware of it, because one is in a coma. You can enjoy only if you are awake because life can only be experienced in the present moment.” Waking from the tantalizing dream that Maya spins is hard, but when efforts fail, relationships disappoint, and the ephemeral nature of the world confronts us, we realize that the present moment is all that we have. Nepal and its surrounding regions were hit by a massive earthquake at the time of writing this article. The earthquake jolted people out of their somnolence. Almost everybody could see that life was evanescent, and all their plans to ensure future happiness and safety were useless. Says Shilpi Pandey Singh, a resident of New Delhi, “You plan so much and you don’t know what is going to happen in the next second. We take loans for property and think that it is a lifetime investment but the way buildings are collapsing in Nepal makes me feel that as though our efforts are meaningless.” Adds Neelima Verma, a retired engineer from Dehradun, “This moment is all we have. So be happy and make everyone happy. This is the only mantra of life.” Meena Srivastava, housewife from Gorakhpur, says, “Life is imprisoned by time. Only these moments are free. Let us not lose them and repent later on, since we do not know what will happen tomorrow.” This tragedy, cutting across communities and nations, brought people together to thank the Almighty for what they have, and set aside differences to celebrate the value of now. If such an attitude could be our permanent one, then life would become happier and tragedies of this scale would not be needed to jolt us into awareness. Increased productivity Present-moment awareness also increases our efficiency at work. This happens because the mind, unfettered by memories or worries, is always fresh. “In reality there is nothing but the present moment. What you call past and future is nothing but you believing in your thoughts.” -Nithya Shanti Says Nithya Shanti, “Every distraction from work takes about 15 minutes to recover. Most people are chronically distracted, because of phone calls, messages or simply their thoughts. This impacts their efficiency badly. I remember once a week I used to go into complete silence, and not use phones or other distracting gadgets. That day of the week used to be the most productive. I could finish five days work in one day because my mind was so focussed. My teacher, monk Ajahn Brahma, is famous for finishing his official work within two hours, which involves managing the affairs of the monastery, and replying to mails through handwritten letters. He does not maintain a diary. If he has an appointment with someone a month later he tells himself about it three times, and his mind awakens him at the right time.” Says healer and facilitator, Pradeep Pawar, “A normal person has two dimensions of the mind. The first is the thinking mind and the other is the working mind. The thinking mind keeps on generating thoughts of either the past or the future. Most of the thoughts are repetitive and irrelevant. This kind of thinking consumes energy immensely. The working mind is that faculty of the mind which is used to plan, solve, and create. When awareness grows, one becomes aware of this thinking mind and has the capacity to accept or reject the thoughts. This state liberates the person from the clutches of the mind and helps her to detach from its ruminations. This is liberation.” What is present-moment awareness In the present moment nothing is bad or negative. It just is. In fact everything is positive only. This is because the universe has been designed to help human beings evolve. The purpose of pain is to awaken you and make you self-responsible. Its aim is to make you discover the wellspring of happiness within yourself. As you choose your higher self at each turn of life, giving preference to inner wealth than outer charms, the universe starts matching steps with you. This discovery unleashes a flurry of joy and positivity. As you see this, all turmoils and struggles become temporary and transient. You start meeting strangers with warmth instead of fear. Though you are enthusiastic about new projects, your decisions are powered by good sense rather than temptations. You trust the goodness of people and have it reflected back on you. You find joy in simple things such as blossoming trees, the russet sky at sunset, a refreshing breeze, or the wagging tail of a stray dog. Your sense of discrimination too becomes sharper…and you are not fooled by false claims or fake appeals since your intuition has evolved due to being present to the moment. Says Sugandha, “Your positivity and vibrations are so high in present-moment awareness that either you attract people with similar vibrations, or subtly change the thought pattern of people in your vicinity. Therefore, there are fewer chances of your being hoodwinked by anyone.&rd
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