Among the traditional Ways, most fall into one of two methods; concentrative or mindful. In concentrative meditation one focuses their attention on something specific, the breathing, an image, or a sound (mantra), while in mindful meditation one allows thoughts, images, feelings, sensory input, to pass through the mind without attaching to them or becoming engaged by them. In either technique, one must have a starting point and that point is usually the Now.
Most of us don’t spend much time in the Now. Have you ever finished a routine trip in the car without being aware of the actual trip? You were somewhere but you weren’t in the Now. Your mind was thinking about something else while your body was on auto-pilot. When you are lying awake for the second night in a row, unable to sleep because your thoughts keep whirling around in your head, you’re not in the Now. When you walk away from the stove without turning off the burner, you’re dangerously not in the Now. For much of human history not being in the Now was often a fatal condition.
Babies exist in the Now and one can often watch as toddlers stop living in the Now over a matter of weeks or months. If you’ve ever played an intense game of volleyball (or some other sport) and felt like you had all the time in the world as everything around you slowed down, you were in the Now. The runner who’s in the zone and exhilarates in the feeling of the breath in their nostrils and the blood pumping in their arteries is in the Now.
Meditation allows us to relearn being in the Now and many of us then carry that process out of the zendo and into our daily lives. When one has learned to use that gentle, persistent redirection of the mind into the Now while meditating one often finds applications in other places. When faced with a complicated or tedious task at work, being in the Now allows us to keep focus and make better use of our time and energy. When interacting with other people, being in the Now makes us more tuned-in to them and can make us aware of subtle verbal and nonverbal cues we would otherwise miss. If one is in the Now at bedtime those whirling thoughts aren’t there and one can finally get to sleep. In a strange or unfamiliar situation being in the Now can bring to our attention details and information that can help keep us safe.
Some schools of meditation indicate that the ultimate goal of sitting is to move into a state where one is always in the Now. I would like to meet such a person. I marvel at the thought of such a disciplined mind and I think it would be fascinating to see how they deal with their day-to-day world.
Personally, this is one of the reasons that I say I practice meditation, staying in the Now isn’t always easy for me. I have, however, learned to notice the signs of my distraction and gently and persistently pull myself back into the moment. As time goes by I’ll continue to get better at it. It’s another tool in my spiritual and mental toolbox that helps enhance my life and make me a better person.
Jim – Serenity Community Member