This week's Monday Quote has been credited to Nisargadatta Maharaj (1897-1981), a Hindu guru. It's similar to many of the teachings with which I've been very familiar ever since I immersed myself in mindfulness and meditation many years ago.
"Past and future are in the mind only --- I am now."
The funny thing is, I heard a variation on the theme because I'm a big football fan! Over a week ago I was listening to an interview with Tom Brady, the amazing QB for the New England Patriots. He was being asked about his future plans -- is he going to retire? why is he moving his family to Connecticut? what's his standing with the team? At one point Tom said, "Someone told me the past and future are in the mind. I'm in the now. I think that's a great way to live life. I'm not thinking about many things beyond this week. There are some family things I'm thinking about with the holidays coming up, but outside of that I'm thinking about football and how I can be the best for the New England Patriots." I wouldn't want it any other way.
We're about halfway through the football season and up until this past Sunday, "my" team was undefeated. The last thing I would want is for our quarterback to have anything else on his mind besides the game. If he's running out onto the field thinking or worrying about how much longer he can play or whether he'll have a new contract after the end of the season, he's not going to have his mind in the game. In fact, at one point, I wondered if Tom and the rest of his team were letting their opponents get into their heads. It was a good, strong, smart team, but at times it seemed like they had found a way to unsettle the Patriots equanimity and usual coolheadedness (yes, that is a word!).
It's a good metaphor for life. If we let our minds take off into the unknowable future or revert to a past that's long gone, we can't possibly fully show up in the present. We'll consistently be cheating people and situations by not bringing our full selves to the party.
The original quote ended with "I am now". Brady paraphrased with "I'm in the now". Being in the now is a good place to be if we want to do our best. Being now takes it one step further. It's a small and subtle but powerful difference. It means fully embodying any situation in real time. It means getting out of our heads and bringing in all our senses. Having watched Tom Brady play for almost 20 years, I think he might have been more accurate if he had said, "I am now". While he's certainly calculating each game play, once he gets the ball he usually seems to sense where his receivers are. One thing for sure, he's not thinking about his new home, the next game or even the next down. He's right there, right in the moment. In the last 18 years the Patriots have won sixteen division titles, played in 13 AFC championship games and won 9 of them.
Imagine what it would be like to live life that way. Imagine being present without anxiety because your mind isn't flashing back or forward. Imagine staying calm and focused only on what is right in front of you. It allows you to access your inner Divine and it's easier said than done. It also enables you to recover from your "losses" because instead of dwelling on what happened, you can learn to focus on "what do I need to do now?".
Anytime we try something new it feels awkward and unwieldy. In high school, Brady was on the JV football team, but not considered good enough to play until the team had no choice but to put him in when the starting QB was injured. That's a far cry from winning five Super Bowl championships and the way he currently plays. He's had to practice a lot.
At first, learning how to be more in the present feels difficult and cumbersome even. It's not something that feels easy or straightforward right away. When I've facilitated 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction programs I can feel the resistance with the very first exercise and I remember how foreign it felt for me that first time. I decided to give it a try anyway. After all, what did I have to lose and I really wanted to see what I could learn from the course.
Now, it's usually automatic for me to focus on my breathing or one of my other tools when in a stressful set of circumstances. Sometimes I forget for a minute, but ultimately I fall back on my training.
Anything we practice and get good at shines when we get into the present. Even though it might look proficient, it's obvious when we notice someone "calling it in". We can tell when there's no heart and soul and it means that they're not completely engaged. Life is actually easier and feels more sacred when we are fully in the now, when we "are" the now -- this is what I wish for you.
I'm still in the very early stages of putting together a retreat of my own, but in the meantime, I highly recommend an upcoming retreat (next April, 2020) with someone I highly respect, Leah Fisch. Check out her website www.joumor.com and see if her Colombia Productivity Retreat might be something you're looking for.
Sparkles and Love,