Last weekend I attended a party at my friend’s place. It was the usual format, and I was very happy in anticipation of meeting many of my friends after long. Then came along one old colleague of mine and said ‘Hi, how are you?’ But as he was talking he was looking at some other friend, and before I answered he dashed to see him. Now, isn’t this a common experience? How often are we really engaged in the conversation? Is it that we are not interested? Or rather we want to get past as many as possible so we have tick marked the number of people we have met! Perhaps this is symptomatic of the fast life we are living. We hardly find a quiet moment to savor what is going around us, or even closely observe so as to take a notice of small changes, leave aside the subtle ones.
So where are we? Anywhere but in the present moment. It is the same rush when it comes to food; we simply gulp it so as to get on with next task, or a meeting. More often we eat while in the meeting, and drink on the go. No wonder we forget what we eat, or how delicious it was, and how much effort someone may have put in its preparation. Then thanking the host becomes just a formality, our heart missing from it.
And what about all those trips and travels we undertake? I have a friend who does not waste a minute in seeing things around, or enjoying the beauty of the nature for which he must have gone there. Because he is constantly taking photos. He sees things only thru the lens! And there are others who want to make sure they have covered every single tourist attraction. Don’t ask how much they have enjoyed, or what they have seen.
So the speed of life has completely overtaken us. Is there any wonder then that we age so fast? And when we look back we say ‘time flies, it is hard to believe so many years have passed since I graduated—–‘ Time flies because we did not take good notice of our experience, the faint impression of that was wiped out almost instantaneously.
So most of the times we are not there.
Or we are in the present, but tense, which means we are not at all present or available to experience what is going around you. We are not sensitive to others, their expectations and their feelings, let alone the environment around you.
They say ‘Present Tense is a gift’. Hence it is called present! But how many of us are really living that way? And is it really possible to live in present all the time? Most of us are wrapped in the past, or worried about the future, which eats away our every living moment, which is the basic unit of life. There was an experiment done by one of the brain scientists where he was testing how much audience is attentive to everything that he sees/hears. He had a group of people, in front of whom he performed certain tricks, while a big cat passed near by. Hardly anyone noticed the cat. He went on to conclude after several experiments that our perception is very limited, it is highly influenced by what we may be interested in, or what we are pre-occupied with.
At a fundamental level, we are all constantly adding stuff to our memory, whatever we experience, and when the Present meets the memory, we retrieve certain parts of it which may be remotely associated with that present (and sometimes not even that!). And in no time we are thousands of miles away, may be chatting with an old friend, or on the beach, or watching a movie that we really liked. Or worse, the person we are meeting now may have hurt us in the past by his comments, and we think of them and get angry again. And so it goes on!
We often forget that we are here because we lived thru all those years; we made that entire journey to arrive here and now! We lived yesterday so we can live today. Then, why not live today, now that it is here? Living in present slowly lets us forget our past, any bitterness lingering around. And once we appreciate the beauty of the surrounding, we are filled with that love and compassion for our fellow humans. Every moment we carry that with us radiating the glow of ‘now’. A good health will be just a side effect then!
This mind wondering is because we don’t realize that all our experiences are in space and time, and mind cannot function without relating to that. This is an illusion. By training the mind we can live more in present, it is a discipline to remain mindful at all the times. By practicing meditation one can get a feel for that experience of the present without all the baggage of the past. But it is not enough to do meditation for few minutes in a day, we need to immerse ourselves in everything we do with hundred percent of our attention. Thich Nhat Hanh in his book on mindfulness, says if you are drinking tea, make that your only goal in life for that moment. And so it is true for every activity, if you are walking, absorb all aspects of your surrounding; observe every object, nature, people. Learn to not form opinions about them, but simply enjoy the sight. If you meet someone and have a chat with him, then treat that person as the only one in your life for that moment; give him your full attention.
By making this a habit, you will see the difference in your relationship with the world; it will be more rewarding, positive and fulfilling. You are in tune with the universe. You are in harmony with the nature and all living beings, and also inanimate world. Your senses are sharper and you are sensitive to what goes on around to you.
And then you are connected with the Divine. You are close to all the forces and energy of the nature, you can tap into them. Because Divine is always present, there is no past and future tense for Divine. When we remember to remember Him, in reality we bring ourselves back to present, because that is where He is, and that is the only time and place where we can experience Him.
Photo: Garden in Mannheim, Germany