Why is “being in the present moment” not getting easier with practice?

I feel like, as the days pass, being in the present moment has gotten harder for me instead of easier. Today, as I was writing my morning pages, which are brain-drain style writing from the book “The Artist’s Way”, I realized why even though I meditate more than ever, I seem to loose the present moment more often.

What happens when begin to experience something for the first time is that we have no prior thought about it, in some cases we might be fearful, but if there is nothing to fear, then there is very little thought about it, but then what happens when we have an experience is our mind begins to form thoughts about that experience: “that was great”, “that was easy”, “I hope this feeling doesn’t go away”, “what if I loose this?”, “what if I don’t feel it again?” “oh no! I don’t feel like I first did!”. When this happens, you can no longer truly experience that particular thing in the same way you did the very first time, because now you are after a feeling that you experienced previously. I don’t know if I am explaining this well.

So lets take the experience of “being in the present moment”. The first time I felt this, was when I made a shift in my focus from “the thinker” to the “observer of thoughts” then that shift in focus gave me a an amazing feeling of awareness.

However, being that our brain is trained to compartmentalize things, my mind began to develop thoughts about what it means to be present and aware, and how I can go about shifting my focus in the future.  So now, instead of just being present, I am trying to reach it by accessing the information my brain stored about the experience of present moment. Well, by doing this, I am delaying reaching the present moment, because you can not reach the present moment through analysis and thought and past experience.

Each experience of the “present moment” is a new experience, and it can be reached in many different ways. Meditation, a simple shift of focus to your breath, an enlightened thought that quiets the mind, sitting in your garden. You will never know! You can not categorize mindfulness, because then your thoughts (or as Eckhart says the ego)  will take it over. If you don’t experience it the same way, if you don’t reach it the way you did the first time you experienced it, then the brain panics. “why isn’t this working?” “I am sitting here and meditating, why can’t I quiet my mind”. Observe these thoughts, and be okay with what is, and suddenly you find yourself in the present moment again!

I can ride my bike with no handlebars!!

so for the past few days I have been practicing really being present, and it’s been so peaceful. Challenging, but when I managed to snap myself out of my thought trans, I felt the deepest peace I have felt in my heart.

On Sunday I rode my bike to work, and I practiced being present (mindful) while riding it. My mind kept drifting in thoughts, but I kept brining my focus back to my breath and body. Well, something magical happened. For the FIRT TIME EVER I was about to let go of the handlebars for longer than a millisecond. Each attempted lasted about 30 second, but it was so exhilarating. The whole ride was!

I was reminded of the this song the Handlebars song by Flobots, which interesting enough was what I kept listening to when I first read Eckhart and discovered the power of being present 5 years ago. I was walking on air back then, I am a little closer to earth now, but it’s the only way to be. You are only truly living, when you are here, in the present moment, and not lost in your thoughts.

If you like the song by Flobots, I recommend creating a pandora station. It will play all kinds of amazingly conscious hiphop songs!

Sound Healing!

I was a bit hesitant to go to a sound healing gathering, I thought it might be too weird for my taste, but really it was amazing!!! I had never been able to sit still in meditation for 45 minutes. I would normally not be able to sit still for even 10 minutes. I have to say that being present was the key element that helped me with it, and also important was that the conductor of the session, Lynda from Sacred Roots, was very sweet, genuine, and open.

I don’t think anything has been as wonderful and as effective in bringing me peace as being present. I find it somewhat easy. It is not easy to maintain it, but it’s not a difficult exercise. Doesn’t require intellect, sitting for hours, or chanting, it’s a matter of shifting your focus. It is accessible at any given instant, you just have to shift your attention to your thoughts. Recognize your thinking voice as a voice, not as yourself. Imagine that someone else is talking, when you think. That is all!! literally! You don’t have to stop the thought, there is nothing you have to do but to watch it, then shift your focus to your breath.

What you will notice happening is that you will continuously identify with your thought and the voice in your head as yourself.. you might say “well obviously I am the one thinking”. No, it’s your mind.. your mind is talking.. and you are listening to it like it’s you. You are the consciousness that observes the mind. This seems abstract but if you only listen to your thoughts, then you have created a space, there is you, and then there is your thoughts, you as the watcher is the real you. Why is it the real you? Because there is peace in it, true peace, comfort and presence.

The Eckhart Tolle interview I posted yesterday explains it perfectly.

Also wanted to share this (6×6 inches, acrylic) painting I did today, which was so much fun to do, because I stayed present (mindful) I can say about 80% of the time I was painting it. There is great joy to be experienced when things are done in the state of awareness.

10985364_10152627797538021_6182379753584840456_nIt needs a some adjustments but not bad for 4 hours and no under drawing!! 🙂 so much fun!!

Peonies are magical!

I haven’t talked about Eckhart Tolle yet, but I have to say that his book “A New Earth” was transformational in our family and my life.

The reason I mention him is that I read a wonderful blog post written by Geneen Roth on the Eckart Tolle page, that I find inspiring. It found its way to my life at just the perfect time. So here it is:

When Life Gets Hard

I bought thirty-six peonies yesterday at Trader Joe’s. They were having a sale, six stems for $6.99 and although my grandmother would have disapproved—she wouldn’t buy flowers because “they always die”—I decided that staggering beauty was at least as important as Greek yogurt. As the cashier—a twenty-something woman with pink hair, three silver nose rings and a rainbow-serpent tattoo twining around her left arm—was ringing up one double-ruffled bunch after the other, she said, “forty-two dollars and worth every penny!” I nodded and thought of the lines from the Mary Oliver poem about peonies and their “eagerness/to be wild and perfect for a moment before they are nothing, forever.” (I like the wild and perfect part, but I’m not so sure about being nothing forever).

As I was arranging the flowers in a vase, my friend Sabine called. “My brother had another brain aneurysm,” she blurted. “He is in critical condition, they don’t know whether he will survive the night.” After another minute she said, “I don’t want to be the only one left in my nuclear family.” When I hung up the phone, I thought once again how difficult it is to be in a human body. How everything is taken away, either quickly as in having a brain aneurysm or slowly, as in getting old and losing one function after another. (Note to self: if there is reincarnation, and if anyone is listening, I’m not coming back. Besides avoiding brain aneurysms and dementia, not having to go through high school again is at the top of the list.)

A spiritual teacher once told me that “what’s real never dies.” That whatever you can lose in a shipwreck (clothes, money, people, your life) wasn’t yours to begin with. And that you might as well spend your life paying attention to what can never die otherwise you get to the end, and you can’t believe you are actually dying and are about to lose everything you love: your cat, your iPad, your body.

Since I didn’t want to be hanging on to my pink angora sweater when I took my last breath, I attended dozens of meditation retreats, took trips to India, practiced presence. But, no matter how much I sensed, practiced, and meditated, I was haunted by the feeling of not enough–not enough success, not enough money, not enough love—and the attendant belief that having enough meant having more. I was absolutely convinced that enough was a quantity, and that once I reached that magical amount—which was a moving target, and always more than I had at any given moment—I could relax, be at peace, be comfortable in my own skin.

Then, six years ago, my husband and I lost every dime of our combined thirty-year life savings in a Ponzi scheme. I was already well practiced in disasters and catastrophes— I’d almost died from a drug reaction, had suffered with a long-term debilitating illness, and had been in three near-fatal car accidents, one of which landed me in a wheelchair for a few months. After each event, the day-to-day experience of being alive, of looking and listening, of touching and tasting felt magically luminous in even the most ordinary situations. But within a short time, my familiar self reconstituted and I was back to seeing through haunted and hungry eyes. When we lost our money, however, I felt as if a fire roared through my life as I knew it, and burned it to the ground.

And although I’ve written about this event and its many repercussions in my book Lost and Found, it occurred to me last month—I’m a slow learner—that nothing has been the same since. Eckhart might call it “a shift.” Carlos Castaneda in the Don Juan books might refer to it as “moving the assemblage point.” And what I would call it is an ongoing recognition of beauty and sufficiency. Because living with the terror and shame following the loss was like running on broken glass, I needed to be fierce about redirecting my attention, moment to moment, on what really mattered. Sensing my hands, my legs, my inner body was no longer a luxury, it was a necessity—and the only place in which I could rest.

Before we lost our money, I wrote and taught about the inner life, about what it takes to be at peace in earth school—while secretly harboring the belief that true fulfillment was still to be found in the world and in the future. But after we lost our money, and because wandering one millimeter away from this exact moment (where nothing was wrong or lacking) felt like going insane with grief and terror, I realized that what I had been looking for (in relationships and in success, in chocolate and in wealth but mostly in more of anything or everything) was here the whole time. In the smoothness of the cup in my hand, in the click of my heel on the pavement, in the sound of the hummingbird’s wings. In the fact that water came out of a faucet when I turned it. It was as if I’d been blind and half-dead for sixty years and was suddenly sprung into a life brimming with color and double-ruffle peonies.

When you’ve lost your money and think you might be living with your dog and your husband in a friend’s trailer and you feel—for the first time—indescribably unbelievably stunningly rich, you realize there is nothing to find or have or get that you don’t already have. You realize that for every doubt, for every fear, for every question you’ve ever had, there is only one answer, and it is now.

Geneen is the best-selling author of Women Food and God and Lost and Found, and her supportive retreats for women in the inspiring Santa Cruz mountains of California explore how our relationship to food is an exact microcosm of our relationship to life itself. Join Geneen and Eckhart as they discuss her teachings on Eckhart Tolle TV.

What makes us out-of-proportionally unhappy/angry/sad in response to a situation, or someone’s actions?