Friday, August 12, 2011

Living in the Now

I am struggling to understand this concept.  I do not think I have grasped the essential wisdom of it.  It seems to me that I live too much "in the Now" - tending to whichever crisis is shouting it's need at me most loudly.  Living in the current crisis leaves me with a distinct feeling of claustrophobia.  I do not have room to expand or plan.  I am reactive instead of proactive.

I have read many books which talk about the wisdom of living in Now, but I still do not really understand it.  Part of the trouble, I suspect, is the inherent responsibility of possessions.  I own a house with a roof, for example, roofs need to be replaced on a regular basis and paying for the roof is not something one does without planning ahead.  Where does future planning exist in "living in the Now"?

My chosen lifestyle requires a lot of "giving thought to the future".  I see how Jesus or Buddha or Richard Rohr or Thich Nhat Hahn or Ekhart Tolle etc. have arranged their lives so that they can accept what comes to them with grace and wisdom.  I admire that, but I do not see how I can emulate that.  I cannot take the advice of Jesus to the rich man and sell all my possessions and live the life of a mendicant.  I need electricity to run Sam's machines.  I like air conditioning and heat.  People in Chicago regularly die if they do not have one or the other.  I really don't want to lose Sam or to die myself simply because I didn't plan ahead and budget well enough to pay the bills.

When I look for peace, I rarely find it Now.  I find myself fighting to rise above the Now to get a clearer perspective.  Now is usually terrifying.  There are too many things that need doing Now and most of them seem to be begging me to instantly save them from destruction.  Everyone and every thing in my life seems to need me to do something Now.  If I do not step aside from the current moment and reflect on things other than Now, I descend into chaos.  I cope.  I react.  I loose track of what is important to me.  I lose track of me.

Stepping outside the stream of life, reflecting, planning, pausing, praying, ignoring Now, I find a modicum of peace and the space to untangle the threads that pull me out of shape.  I reform myself and can begin to make decisions about which threads I want to pick up and which ones I want to let drift away in the wind.  But stepping outside is hard.  I need to fight for my solitude - fight myself and my impulse to surrender to the demands of Now.   It is far too easy to allow myself to drift in the chaos of Now and be swept away by the expectations of the people and possessions in my life.

I am learning that "Yes" and "No" are the two most powerful words in my vocabulary and both need to be used with caution.   I need to pause, at least momentarily, and reflect before saying either "Yes" or "No".  When I am swept away by the chaos of Now, I give myself away without thinking and usually it is by saying "Yes" or "No" thoughtlessly.  I am too prodigal with myself when I live in the Now.

And yet, when I listen to these wise men talk about their concept of Now, I realize that they are talking about something substantially different from what I experience.  I think my failure must have something to do with a difference of definition.  I have trouble grasping what they mean.

I think they have a lot less need to feel control and a lot more trust in the universe or God or whatever they call it, than I have.  I do not trust God or the universe to have the same priorities that I have and so I feel a deep need to control or at least try to control at least some of my circumstances.  I realize that God/the universe is more powerful, capable and even ultimately more kind and loving than I am on a global scale, but it seems clear that we are not more important than the lilies of the field and our individual survival is not of paramount importance to that force/entity.  So my individual responsibility is to take care of myself, Sam and my little corner of the earth.  For that, I need perspective and time outside Now to think.

Clearly there's something I don't get yet.

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