“Life can be found only in the present moment.
The past is gone, the future is not yet here,
and if we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment,
we cannot be in touch with life.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Life is NOW
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
In 1977, soon after my midlife spiritual awakening, I was introduced to Eastern spiritual wisdom by a book called “Be Here Now”. It told about the spiritual transformation of Dr. Richard Alpert, Harvard Ph.D, into Ram Dass, a Western teacher of Eastern wisdom, after meeting his Hindu guru – Neem Karoli Baba.
“Be Here Now” was for me unlike any other book I’d ever before seen or read. Filled with beautiful calligraphy, art, and photos, it imaginatively presented a fascinating melange of Eastern ideas previously unknown to me, with many suggestions and ‘recipes’ for various spiritual practices.
Some suggestions interested me though I didn’t immediately adopt any of them. But the book planted seeds for spiritual practices which I later adopted. The first of these practices – simple repetition as a mantra of the word “Rama”, a Hindu name for God – soon manifested in my life, in a surprising way and with remarkable continuing consequences.
Gradually the book’s title “Be Here Now!” became for me a memorable guide for spiritual awakening; a reminder to live with a quiet mind in the present moment – an idea which I later found often repeated in other spiritual books and teachings.
I was especially influenced by the teachings of J. Krishnamurti about how “freedom is found in the choiceless awareness of our daily existence and activity.” Much later felt great resonance with the writings of contemporary teacher Eckhart Tolle, which emphasized “The Power of Now.” Perhaps most important were my beloved Guruji’s instructions to “meditate regularly”.
Only after many years of meditating regularly did my ‘monkey mind’ gradually cease its ceaseless chatter, permitting me the option of using it or not, and of choosing to enjoy moments of choiceless awareness. Whereupon, I realized that “to think or not to think, that is the question”, and I understood Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras’ key aphorism that “Yoga is the cessation of mind.”
By learning to live with a quiet mind in the present moment, I’ve found that “The more we live moment by moment, the more momentous our lives;” and that “That when all thoughts cease, we are at peace.”
Each of us has a unique karmic history and space/time perspective. So each of us has unique challenges and a unique ‘recipe’ for spiritual opening. But the ‘ingredients’ in every such ‘recipe’ are the same– only proportions differ. And Presence – ‘being here now’ – is important for everyone, not just those who knowingly seek spiritual opening.
Being present is sometimes called being “in the zone” with a stilled or focussed mind. Have you ever noticed how star artists or athletes perform at their highest levels while “in the zone”?
Whether or not we are interested in Eastern wisdom or mindfulness or peak performance while “in the zone”, I have discovered a book passage that can help us understand “The Power of Now” and why it’s important to “Be Here Now!” in a state of precious presence.
Through synchronicity I recently received from my high school friend John Rubel of West Virginia a wonderfully witty passage written by brilliant comedian Sid Ceasar in his 1982 autobiography – “Where Have I Been?” – telling how he learned that being in the “now” can “change your whole cycle of life”.
Whether or not we are interested in Eastern wisdom or mindfulness or peak performance while “in the zone”, I think this passage can help us understand “The Power of Now” and why it’s important to “Be Here Now!”
So here it is:
“While people keep waiting and waiting for something big to happen in life, the “now” is passing them by. Do you know how fast a “now” passes? At the rate of 186,000 miles per second, the speed of light. So no matter how much you love and enjoy a particular “now,” that’s how fast it becomes a “was.” That “now” is never coming back, and that “was” ties into some “going-to-be.”
“So if you don’t learn from the “was’s” you’re going to have bad “going-to-be’s, which completes the cycle by bringing in bad “nows.” Thus, the only time you can switch around from a negative into a positive is in the “now.” Because you have to do it now. You can’t just think of doing it now because it is rapidly becoming a “was,” and it’s too late. And “going-to–be” is you may do it and you may not. So if you do it now, you know it’s done and you’ve got it. If you have a good “now’ you have a good “was,” which leads to a good “going-to-be.”
“In other words, by taking advantage of a “now, maybe even changing a bad “now” into a good “now,” you can have a good “was” from which you can learn and change your whole cycle of life. That’s why I never use the word “if” anymore. An “if” is a “never was.”
~ Comedian Sid Caesar – “Where Have I Been?”, p271
May Sid Caesar’s wise and witty words help us remember that being present in the NOW can be a key to spiritual awakening and peak performance for everyone everywhere.
And so may it be – NOW!