“Be Here Now.” How about that for a blast from the past? In the early 1970s, if you wanted to be “hip” (as in “hippie”) and mellow, you just kept saying “Be Here Now.” Of course, at that time I had no idea what that meant. Is it anything like “Get good quick”? We’re always here now, right? Short of time travel, where else could we be but here, now?
Flash forward to 2018. As I was eating breakfast, “Be Here Now” comes to mind. Well, duh, yes I am here and it is now. Then I noticed that, while I was eating, I would be thinking about the past, worrying about the future, or rehearsing something I should have said in the past or something that I plan to say in the future. So, I stopped and noticed my body’s reaction to the replaying or rehearsing: my stomach tightened up, my breathing became shallow, my cheeks (no, the lower ones) were clenched, and I didn’t taste the food.
When I eat mindfully – a fantastic technique I learned and will describe later – my brain is disengaged and my senses are alive so I enjoy the textures, aromas, and flavors of the food. I also breathe deeply, my stomach and cheeks are relaxed, and I am calmly experiencing my breakfast.
“Be Here Now.” I stopped eating breakfast for a bit, and thought back to other times when I have eaten while my mind was elsewhere:
- Sneaking bites of food at my desk, while working through the lunch period because I had so much to do
- Grabbing a hot dog and gobbling it while hurrying to the next meeting
Expanding my focus beyond eating, I remembered that even when I was intent while writing a term paper, a report for work, or a letter to a friend, I was primarily thinking about the future:
- Will I be finished before the deadline?
- What will the reader think about the word I just used?
- Is this paper or report good enough to submit?
- What will my boss’s reaction be to this report?
- How do I finish this sentence?
- What should I write next?
At breakfast, I took a poll of how much time I spent being in the present while I ate, how much time I spent reliving or trying to change the past, and how much time I spent on worrying or planning for the future. Because well over half of my breakfast had been eaten, with very little memory of how it tasted, I figured about 5% (if that) of the time I was in the present, and for 95% or more my thoughts were bouncing around all space and time.
Expanding that poll to the rest of my day, I realized that I was not really focused in the present much at all. My attention was either to the past, where I replay old tapes, or to the future, where I worry about something coming up (or what the future holds in general) or I rehearse what I’m going to say to someone a week from now. I also have the same bodily reactions – shallow breathing, tight stomach, and clenched cheeks – when I was focused in the past or the future, even though I wasn’t eating. The only time I breathed deeply, relaxed, and felt good was when I was totally in the present in mind, body, and spirit. “Be Here Now.”
Ram Dass, the author of the book “Be Here Now,” originally published in 1971, said, “Don’t think about the past. Just be here now.” And that reminded me of “Your point of power is in the present moment,” a statement by Louise Hay that resonates with me, and one that I thought I had been practicing.
How about a change in habit? I will set aside some time each day to reflect on the past and, perhaps, rewrite some more old tapes. I will set aside other time each day to plan or rehearse for the future – but without the worry. Most of my time will now be spent enjoying the present – the sun shining on the trees, the rolling sound of the ocean, the different heaviness of sounds from each passing car or truck, my deep breathing, my relaxed body, and just feeling good.
My hope for you is that you, too, can feel the freedom and joy of living in the present. “Be Here Now.”