Updated: Mar 3, 2020
So 2020 a new year, a new decade. A time to reflect on the past year and imagine the future...but what about the present?
My resolution is to see these times of collective upheaval as a challenge rather than a threat, to learn to be comfortable with discomfort, to continue sharing the art of being present in any situation. This waves the white flag at low-level anxiety and constant fear, a prevelant feeling amongst many who have been dealing with the bushfires here in Australia.
I am re-reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. I first came across it 15 years ago & it stopped me in my tracks. It was quite profound how it opened up an awareness of the nature of my thoughts; observing and judging of others, defensive at times, self-justifying, self-deprecating. Through my reading I discovered that we only ever make decisions in the present moment. A recent article by writer Mandi Lockley posits "the main idea put forth in The Power of Now is that there is no such thing as the past or future, only the present moment and it is our thoughts (and by extension our ego) that keep us in the past or worrying about the future. The less you live in the present moment the more you become susceptible to getting lost in your thoughts and over-identifying with your life situation or circumstances. This is the major cause of our pain, suffering and unhappiness". Through my own life expereinces and those of my acupuncture clients, I recognised the profound pearl at the heart of The Power of Now; the stumbling block of humanity is not knowing how to embrace our innate, buddha-like nature.
Upon finishing the book I decided to dedicate the rest of my life to discovering the art of being present in any situation (big resolution I know and it wasn't even new year!). I continue to do this through various simple meansthat work for me; observing nature, creating yoga practices that suit my mood, humming while cooking, attending regular qi gong classes, self awareness workshops & retreats, practicing connected breathing daily, deep listening with clients/friends/family, practicing acupuncture and and having regular cold showers (it creates physiological & psychological resilience - single-minded focus in 30 secs!)
Modern Western philosophy has been based on Decartes' premise "I think, therefore I Am" whereas The Power of Now puts forward "I Am, therefore I think". It is has not being a usual part of our upbringing to receive training in how to become fully present, to just hang out in no-thought, observing sensory input without analysis or judgement. In the Orient there is reverence for the sacred, contemplation practices refined through daily rituals. The everyday task of sweeping leaves in Japan is done with mindfulness solely on the task; renewing energy in the sweeper as well as the land.
Remember those looped video tapes that would just keep repeating? We can be unaware of those loops starring betrayal/trauma/guilt/shame-filled thoughts and feelings, continually over-playing in our mind. Once we do stop to observe the inner programs we are playing we then have a choice; to distract our mind from focussing on these inner hurts/anxieties by over-thinking, over-talking, over-consuming or to re-direct the mind's activity to make space for them to transform (challenging yet essential if we wish to become the peaceful joyous beings that we could possibly be).
Many of the wisdom traditions which employ Yoga or Meditation for self-healing have a simple technique to begin the slow turning of the ship from Over-thinking to Observing and towards the land of Mindful Presence. By slowing down your breath...focusing the mind on the breath, deepening the breath in the belly, bringing your mind back to the breath when it wanders, then observe the breath breathing the body...and voila! The nervous system in those few moments has switched over from the 'Fight Flight or Freeze' Sympathetic branch of the nervous system to the Para-sympathetic 'Rest, Digest, Renew' branch. By enjoying the restfulness of the mind being fully engaged with breath and body, it is considered to be in the Now. With nothing to do, nowhere to go and surrendering attachment to the activity of the mind, you can observe your thoughts without getting entangled with them and the arising feelings. You are now free to re-direct energy towards what it is you would like to pay attention to, rather than your sub-conscious programs directing the show. These were likely created in the distant past, often in the first 7-8 years of life and may not be as supportive of the person you wish to be anymore.
'New Science' is an emerging field combining Quantum physics, Medical Science, Spiritual wisdom.
One of it's pioneers' Dr. Bruce Lipton, was a stem cell biologist who fast-tracked the concept of Epigenetics (which sees the environment that our cells live in rather than the DNA that's important) into a global consciousness revolution that even Medical Science is talking about.
Along with Gregg Braden and Dr. Joe Dispenza, they have been showing us how it is possible to re-wire our brains, our behaviours and our bodies from past trauma and future anxiety. Like any new skill we must continually practice for the new neuronal pathways to fire together and become wired together. We can create our own harmonious and sustainable ways of living in the world, if we feel inspired to become more resilient. Collectively we can adapt to upheavel and our fast-changing environment, if we recognise that we can turn the ship of destiny together.