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.
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.
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 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.”
Says Nithya Shanti, “Not that such a person doesn’t ever think about the past or future. He can and he does…but occasionally and without ruminating over them. But his method of relating to people is clear, direct and living. You are more patient with people. You have an ability to help them come out of distress because no matter what their story is, in the present moment they are okay,”
An argument or a fight would lose its sting because it is done with and forgotten, not carried forward in memory and referred to every time you meet the same person or another person. Thus the onward happy flow of life is not arrested. Though you would plan for future and set goals, you are not insanely obsessed by them, or pursue them at the cost of ignoring present gifts. You would enjoy the process of working rather than waiting for the desired result to give you happiness. Work when done with joy naturally yields the desired outcome without your going nuts about it.
Recently, I partook in the organisation of an event in my locality. As I toiled and laboured to spread awareness of the event among people, I became anxious about the final turnout at the event. Suddenly, I remembered that outcome was not in my control but enjoyment was. I gave up my anxious thoughts and began to focus on the joyous process of setting up and decorating the venue. Finally, a decent number of people turned up and all of us had a memorable evening.
Hollow and empty
Present-moment awareness is a space free of biases, judgments, concepts and notions. It happens when you have decluttered your mind of shoulds, musts and should nots. Such a state helps you to monitor your inner world, and take necessary steps if negativity of any sort is drawing you back into the network of thoughts.
|“When a person becomes aware, the present moment is automatically included in it. When one becomes aware, one develops the acumen to observe the activity of the mind.” – Pradeep Pawar|
It is noteworthy that healing yourself is imperative to reach this state. When the debris of painful memories is cleared through self-effort or the help of healers, you inch closer to the state of present-moment awareness.
A person with this awareness is unable to put a label to any incident or person because she sees everything as is. For her, an angry person is an angry person. He is not a bad or hateful person because the labels are highly subjective to circumstances. Explains Anil Bhatnagar, “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.” Such a person is comfortable with the unpredictability of life and temperaments of people. She does not feel shackled by her circumstances because for her all fluctuations and upheavals are transitory manifestations of the calm and ever peaceful nature of things.
Says Eckhart Tolle, “The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but thoughts about it. Be aware of the thoughts you are thinking. Separate them from the situation, which is always neutral. It is as it is.”
Saint Eknath of Maharashtra, who was spat at 108 times by a churlish man, could stay unperturbed only because he was centred in present-moment awareness.
Explains Pradeep Pawar, “The capacity to be detached from the clutches of the mind plunges one into absolute peace. There are no over reactions to things. Such a person is equanimous beyond imagination. She lives in a world of timelessness, because she is free from the incessant activity of the mind which creates the phantoms of time.”
Present-moment awareness withdraws you from the tumultuous upper level of life to its core where things are always safe and calm and peaceful.
Pradeep Pawar continues his eulogy into the benefits of present-moment awareness: “Cultivating awareness activates the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, reduces the incessant chatter of the mind, and diminishes stress. It increases focus and concentration and brings in greater clarity of thoughts. It makes you more responsive instead of reactive. It also develops the power of intuition. Simultaneously, one becomes more considerate and compassionate, the heart centre opens up and one feels connected to others, thus increasing empathy. Finally and most important, it paves the way to liberation.”
He adds, “I would like to emphasize here that awareness is what is important. Calling it present-moment awareness is like dwarfing the concept. When a person becomes aware, the present moment is automatically included in it. When one becomes aware, one developes the acumen to observe the activity of the mind.”
How to achieve it
Although present-moment awareness follows enlightenment, it can be accessed through diligent practise and the grace of God. Osho often compared present-moment awareness with the gaze of an innocent child. He asked people to recall the times when as children they saw what they saw in their entirety. There was no judgment.
Says Anil Bhatnagar, “I won’t say that this state is easy to maintain since the mind keeps taking over. But if you can be aware that you were not aware, even that is a good space to be in.”
I recall having been asked by an elderly lady I met at the Life Positive Expo in Kolkata last year, about how to bring the roving mind into the present moment. I explained to her about the technique of conscious breathing. She argued that it was not possible to stay in that state perennially. Suddenly like a flash, I told her that whenever her mind carried her away she should simply be aware of the happening. She seemed convinced and relieved.
Says Nithya Shanti, “I first had a taste of present-moment awareness during a meditation class I attended at the age of 16. Anapanasati meditation as taught by my teacher made me realise that troubles arose from the mind and its imaginations.”
He suggests a technique, “Change this perception that living in the present moment is difficult. The perception of time as we know it makes us feel as though we are running out of it. Clockwise measurement of time is a Western concept which makes us feel that time is short. In reality we have plenty of time…therefore relax and focus on the present moment. Take out one minute a day to be fully present in that moment. Watch your breath, notice the sounds you are hearing, witness your thoughts, and feel into your body. Whenever you get an opportunity, do it again.”
Recently, I was pissed off with someone for his overbearing and clingy nature. Annoyed, I stewed and churned from within. As I walked to the market, lost in unpleasant thoughts…I caught myself. How could I hand over my power to somebody like this, I thought. Instantly, I shifted from thinking to focusing on the present moment. And voila, everything before my eyes began to look new, sparkling and exciting. The beautiful colours and shapes of fruits and vegetables being sold on the pavements became prominent, the variety in the faces and structures of people, the wind, the flowers, the trees, the animals, everything became alive. I also realised that life was fresh each moment but since we are never present to it, we go on long vacations to pretty places to cool off. Instantly, my bad mood shifted and I saw that the cause of my disconcertedness was not the person but my own hesitation in confronting him. This brought me to the conclusion that present-moment awareness helps a person in knowing herself better.
Many people often feel that being aware means that you should not be lost in thoughts even for a moment, and be conscious of every activity happening in the moment. While this is true to some extent it is not completely true. Mindful people do have thoughts…but they are smart enough to realize when they are getting caught in its mesh and keep disentangling themselves. So they have greater time to love and appreciate than judge, fear or condemn. Says Nithya Shanti, “Even the concept of present-moment awareness is an incomplete one since there is a small hypnosis of doership attached to it. When you think. ‘I am aware, I am watching,’ it is again falling into the matrix of thoughts. There is something which is beyond present-moment awareness. Question yourself, who is aware, what is aware and soon you would have a glimpse of the actual doer. In that state you realize that nobody is doing or seeing anything. Things happen on their own. There is a flow and that flow takes care of everything. In Sanskrit it is called Keval Darshan.”
Till the time this state becomes our permanent one, we can practice being in the present moment as much as possible. For the universe your efforts and sincerity matter. And when the time is ripe the result cascades down naturally.
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