Friday, August 29, 2008


Last night my yoga teacher was talking about how we could deepen our practice, how we could get more out of each class, out of each pose. Her advice was to be present. Be present right now.

This is not a new idea to me, or to most of you, probably. It’s a common tenant of Buddhist philosophy and of yoga philosophy. And although it sounds simple, I find it hard to do.

My teacher went on to say that most of us vacillate between the past and the future, and spend very little time actually experiencing the present. She then suggested that the past is usually associated with fear, the present with desire. We spend most of our time moving between fear and desire. Fear and desire. The past, our negative past experiences, has taught us to be cautious, cynical, fearful. While our minds tend to fill the future with all that we long for, with all those things (relationships, financial milestones, new jobs, cars, houses) that would, finally, make us happy, finally bring us fulfillment.

The irony, of course, is that if you’re ever actually going to experience happiness, you have to do it now. Past happiness is gone, and future happiness may or may not arise. If you’re going to find contentment, you better damn well do it now.

My teacher spent perhaps two minutes on this idea, maybe less. It was one of many things she spoke of during the 90-minute class, but it stuck with me. The reason, I think, was because it spoke to me of this coming weekend, Labor day weekend. This weekend is a marker of milestones for me, this year especially.

You see, the Saturday of Labor day weekend marks my 8th anniversary with my husband, and my 1st anniversary with my boyfriend. (Neat trick, huh? And I’m not even French!)

Yes, yes, my soon-to-be-ex husband and I have already signed the divorce agreement and are just waiting for the divorce to be legal. And my boyfriend knows all about it, and was brave enough to get involved with me months before the legal document even came into being. But these two relationships illustrate so well (for me) what my teacher was talking about.

My past is full of relationship failures, the biggest, of course, my recently failed marriage. This makes me cautious, untrusting, cynical. The future is full of endless possibilities, including happily-ever-after with my boyfriend. It’s easy for me to project way into the future, to image all sorts of ways in which this relationship, my current relationship, will fulfill me in the future.

The reality, of course, is that life happens one day at a time; that this Saturday is all its own.

That being the case, let's enjoy it. N-O-W.


jenboglass said...

I learned to live in the "now" when I had children. Sometimes I hold them or hug them and think to myself, "Be here. Remember this moment always."

On another note, my father still calls me every October 21st to wish me a happy anniversary. The day my divorce was final from my miserable first husband. My father sent me flowers every year on that date too until I married again. Here's to your now! Great post.

nicoleantoinette said...

This is a lovely, lovely post. I'm desperately struggling to live by these principles and don't think I've been successful yet. But I'm not giving up.

Kathi D said...

For the past few years this idea has been resonating with me. I felt like I had discovered the secret to human happiness when I started thinking deeply about Being Here Now.

I really think that when you distill almost all the great thinking in the world, Be Here Now is what you end up with. When I seriously strive to practice it, I know why.

Are you worried about illness? Are you alive right now? Not in too much pain? Able to walk?

Worried about a death in the family? Is the person here now? Celebrate. No? Did she die, and did you survive it? That's hopeful.

It is the simplest of concepts and one of the hardest to implement. It is not easy to give up regrets over the past, and it seems to be in our nature to dwell on the future, either happily or worriedly. The only I have found to practice it is to "practice it" -- to keep reminding myself.

I do ramble on so.

XUP said...

Very good. I don't think I ever got that "be present" thing before now. I've heard it many times, but never had it explained this way or maybe I wasn't paying attention or maybe I just need to see things written down before I get them. Thanks

Ellie said...

Aw, Beth. So beautifully put. Thanks for this. I am just getting to read this *now*, this very second, at 6 p.m. Eastern Time! Harumph. Talk about NOT living in the moment -- I was thinking all day that I couldn't wait to see what Herself had posted.

Love you sweetie. I'd say Hang In There, but, clearly, you are.


Captain Dumbass said...

Thank you Beth, I needed that today. My life's been a... I was going to say 'hurricane,' but won't, not this weekend. Life has been a non-stop roller coaster for the last two years, and today I Iost my job of 13 years. It's not a bad thing though, I get to spend a paid year off with my children, and once that's over, I get to start over fresh. My children deserve me to live in their "now" and I'd be stupid not to.

Thank you.