What is it to be Mindful and in the Present Moment
“I am not sure how things will keep going in terms of my survival. From time to time I become passionate with different subjects and have several different activities as my favorites. I give everything to them and I learn the basics well (I think) but I don’t focus on something specific for a certain period of years. I don’t believe there is a single thing I am an expert actually, how am I going to keep sustaining my survival this way?”
But this was happening to me from a very early age. I was never able to really fit into anything and I was only managing to operate out of threats and violence. But I have consciously realised it now, this society was never making sense to me. All this pressure I have received wasn’t enough to make me a gear of this irrational system.
Clip-Clop, the well known sound of a horse, as well its exceptional proudness together with its brown and white colors mixed astonishingly filled my senses and brought me to now. One more time my mind had been taken away to a place where right and wrong is standard, where existence by itself is painful, laborious and hard. In a place where showing that you are “successful” in a tiny piece of life is enough to be admired as a human being. But I don’t bite in these thoughts any more and using my intellect as a weapon is not even needed at all in occasions such as this. As time is passing the invalidity of that kind of ideas is getting better “digested” and is automatically accepted, there is no need to give reasons to me once again. I know.
The Chiltern hills of South East England were looking gorgeous especially during this autumn time. Everywhere the eye could stare was a sea of million hues of green, brown, red and yellow. But the strange thing is that even though I must have been walking next to this landscape for sometime, i was noticing it for the first time. Last thing I remembered was a dreamy walk in a forest, being surrounded and topped by very tall trees. The sun was mostly hidden from me but the majority of the leaves had taken a light green color due to the refraction of sunrays on them. This made the moment almost sacred.
So even though the landscape was at its peak, for much of the time I wasn’t even there in fact! Nature was offering me its gifts in abundance and I seemed to prefer looking at biased and irrational potential future phenomena. And not only I wasn’t collecting data from my senses but most importantly I was being dragged to negative emotions although physically I was fully safe and in a real life paradise. One could say such a shame, but on the other hand is not an easiest thing to get out of this shame. Thus, it actually is not a shame to happen and if you recognise any similarities just don’t blame yourself.
The Roaming Mind and the Egos
One of the major characteristics of our minds is that they seem to assume several different personalities and every time we are hypnotized in them. Instead of one ego that many talk about there seem to be many egos “inside” each one of us. Multiple personalities that firmly take control and either bias the way we explain our influences or drag us away from now and put us in a hypnotic state similar to the one I described. These have been created through the course of our lives and are results of how we have been treated by our parents, what we have been brought up to think as important, our friends, distinctive experiences, education etc. At the times (which are most times for the average person) that they are in control we can’t think or feel anything beyond them because we “receive” as thoughts of highest value the ones that are arising. In that moment they look undeniable. We also accept the state we are into.
Unfortunately, these egos are made to make us close minded and limited to their perception, we are trapped. Even the ones that look optimistic are in fact coming from an egocentric manner and emotions of pride or anger. But even worse I have noticed that most of the times these egos are pessimistic,they synchronize us to states of apathy, fear or even shame. Depending on our level of understanding of things it increases our perception of risk. The mind hates to lose way more than to not win.
(This idea of multiple egos might remind you of the multiple personality disorder. Of course we are not talking about the same level as the multiple egos don’t mean that we can’t be functional in a societal level. However, we cannot deny the influence of this unavoidable characteristic of our minds.)
So there is the “Angelo” that is a philosopher that has seen and read a lot of things and has travelled so he is very smart. There is the fat and gluttonous “Angelo” that can’t resist a fast food. There is this kind “Angelo” that is so good a guy that does all the time good things and others don’t recognise it but this is life, There is the sexy “Angelo” that most girls look at him in the street erotically and the girl he talked before showed clearly that liked him. There is the “Angelo” that is unlucky in life unlike others so he is angry, he has been a victim for so long. There is the “Angelo” that is mean because he has very firm views and doesn’t listen to others’ opinions. There is this “Angelo” whose life is hard and his future is in high risk unless he finds a “proper” job. The list could continue for very much longer.
All these “Angelos” actually exist in my mind and are all fake interpretations and provide irrelevant reactions to reality. They are stories that from time to time hypnotize me and I fully believe them as true. As I mentioned, they have been created through the course of my life and one by one the longer I look at myself the clearer it looks where they came from, why from all thoughts these are the ones that are arising, how have they been created. This process makes them vulnerable, if this keeps going they won’t be standing for much longer. This is why, like in the example in the beginning I mentioned that I don’t need the intellect to drive some of them away, I have recognised for what they stand for so they are blowing their top, leaving me space to experience the reality, the now. Their force is analogous to my belief in them.
How is it to “Enjoy a place?” and the Predispositions about it
I remember that till only a few years ago, there were times that I couldn’t help but confront myself with the questions: “What is it to enjoy a place?” . “How am I supposed to feel when I look at a beautiful landscape or a pleasant sunset?”. Back at that time I didn’t know the answer because being inside my room or being in a beautiful landscape didn’t seem to make much difference. At any place I was always at a similar place. At the one of my thoughts.
Later I realised that even being predisposed about an experience wasn’t enough. Going to a beautiful place and intentionally storming my mind with thoughts about how beautiful it is, or how calm, or how extraordinary again didn’t seem fulfilling. These thoughts were trying to rationally push the whole experience towards an in fact vague direction. Like an old donkey its carriage in a steep road with not even a specific end. I called these directions vague as in fact words are generally difficult to describe so specific an experience. Not everyone has the same concept of i.e bliss in their minds plus every experience is unique thus you can’t know from an earlier time how it is actually gonna feel. This is one of the greatest miracles of life.
The above mentality is once again a game of the egos. We have built in our mind how is it correct for our personality to feel in a certain situation and then according to this model we struggle to impose this state paired with its emotions.
Direct Truthful Experience
But in fact there is no choice in truth, in our experience. Isn’t it so? When a negative thought arises you can’t choose that, it has arisen already, it has happened. When you have negative emotions unless they change they are negative, which means they make you weak. Denying their existence can be a choice of course, but one of this particular ego that is “protecting” itself from being exposed.
I don’t know if it is clear but only an enlightened being (if there exists any) can recognise all of these things in a conscious level. Most of us normal people in my opinion can only be in a process of recognising them gradually by coming from a sincere will about this process. Working in ourselves and being ready to get the new information that comes to us in an a-ha moment. Unavoidably, the way to be strong in this process is by being conscious and in the moment.
But what is then the being in the now? It certainly is not posting photos on instagram because as a matter of fact in this situation you are not where your physical body is but in the platform. I wanted to first create a general but concrete idea about its specifications so that I know where to look at. And after looking there I could understand what does it mean as words don’t seem to be enough to describe any experience in general. So after having the experience I could continue going towards this state more and more after having the actual experience or remembering from old ones that wasn’t at that time possible to recognise.
In fact it is indeed right in front of our eyes. First of all there are our senses. Smell, touch, hearing, sight and taste. These are let’s say mechanisms of the body that send us information about what is happening inside and outside our bodies. Due to the fact that most of us in the majority of the time have our minds in something else we don’t consciously check what information our senses send to us unless it’s something significant. If we have an injury, if we hit something, if we are sick. The vast majority of the people I am sure that don’t even consciously care about the smells and tastes when they are eating, it all happens unconsciously while they talk about other issues or think of other staff.
So the first aspect of being in the now is consciously and readily “looking” at what the senses give from moment to moment. If you feel warm, cold, if you have any pain, what smell is in the air, the sounds of the environment, what is the taste in your mouth, what is in your view etc.
Secondly we all have a vast array of feelings and emotions. We have also moods. So we feel anger, we have pride, we have joy, we have happiness, we feel courage etc. Being in the now is recognising their existence. How do they look? How does the heart feel? What do we sense because of the emotion? Can you find which parts of your body this state influences and how? We want to be in an as much clearer understanding of these.
Lastly, there come the thoughts. By sitting back for a while and looking at what is happening, in case it hasn’t already, it will be made clear to you that there is a watcher with vague or unknown origins somewhere (it looks like behind the eyes) that is observing. The watcher looks free and uncovered. When the observer really observes nothing can cover him. But at one moment the observer observes and at another is lost asleep and we are in a hypnosis, going from a thought to another. We find this out only when the observer awakens once more. Until he goes to sleep again and so on and so forth.
So thoughts seem to come out of nowhere and then return to nowhere unless we keep believing them. This understanding alone is the start of differentiating our real selves from random ideas that, as we said, are coming from the egos.
So being in the now in the case of thoughts would mean bringing the observer as close as possible so that we won’t let the takeover from thoughts last long. This way gradually we will be even getting closer to look them at the moment the arise, even before they take over. As well, being in the now means to come to an understanding of the specific ego that has or had taken over during the time we were lost in thoughts. This way would be easier to understand the ways it emerges. Have you recognised for example a pattern of you becoming angry when discussions come to a specific issue? Then it’s one of the egos talking else even if your way of thinking was the most valid, you would have been calm.
As you can understand these 3 categories (senses, emotions, thoughts) intercorrelate and influence each other. So an angry Angelo ego boosts aggressive thoughts, feelings of anger and pressure in the stomach.
Observing is not meant to be passive
One might say that all this looks like a very passive perspective. Just observing. That’s normal in the western world where we are trying to quantify everything, increase our numbers all the time and have given so much value to how much active someone is. All of these might be correct but not for me. My understanding is as Tao Te Ching says, there are times to struggle and there are times to rest. What time is can be found only through our sincere observation of every moment.
Also, observing doesn’t mean not doing. I mean observing what we are doing, not sitting an observing. For me observing ironically has worked as productivity booster. Most things I need to do during the day are enjoyable to me and are my choices, they come from this sincere looking at my moments, of what is driving me. The more I uncover my egos the more I see the things that are real and meaningful to me. And I go there. There aren’t many and the process is simple and natural. Thus easier to be mindful in it and productive.
But even if I have to do something that is not so enjoyable, being in the now once again works. Because instead of being lost in thoughts and as a result procrastinate, I look at what has to be done, I uncover the thoughts that I have learnt to typically take over me in such instances and then I act.
Another thing that someone could ask is: “Should we not think at all then?” Our intellect seems to mostly be useful to analysis and strategy. It is helpful in calculating or combining sets of information. These things are useful and of course we should harness our intellect. But coming from a different perspective. We want to decide when the intellect gets into action, when we need to think. Instead of the thoughts taking over us and influencing our mood, we are observing the process of the thoughts and potentially guide it towards the direction we want. We decide when we sit down and make plans and not the other way around.
When we eat we eat, when we sleep we sleep, when we discuss we discuss and when we strategize we strategize.
Another thing that needs to be mentioned again is that we are trying to cultivate a tendency towards the truth and a clearer understanding of what is happening. Thus choosing to be mindful only in the times that something positive has taken place but at the same time trying to avoid looking at our negative moods when they occur doesn’t go together with the aforementioned tendency towards truth.
Life is oneness and contains the whole amplitude of the innumerable different possibilities. Turning our back to some of them only keeps us in the dark, always vulnerable to external circumstances that will trigger the ego(s) which are connected to them. As it has many times been said, the important thing is not the event that occurs or the thought that emerges but how we receive it. Consequently, only the observer has the power to make this process to take place..