If you follow us on Social Media you may have arrived here from our Wisdom Wednesday post. Our first few posts in this series were some amazingly powerful mantras. Shifting gears a bit we’ve decided to focus on some of our teachers - the faces you see on the wall as you walk up the stairs to the Shiva room. The first teacher we’ve decided to highlight is Ram Dass. You may know Ram Dass from a little book titled "Be Here Now."
The namesake of our studio, the phrase "be here now," is a great reminder to reside fully in the present moment. Through the teachings, guidance, and love of his guru Neem Karoli Baba, Ram Dass learned what it meant to be here now and to love unconditionally.
Technically it was Bhagavan Das who uttered the phrase and who constantly reminded Ram Das to, “Remember, be here now," but I have a feeling Ram Dass has probably said it a few times as well. And if nothing else, hearing that over and over again repeated ad infinitum helped to cement the concept in Ram Dass’ heart and mind.
If you’ll indulge me, I’ll share some thoughts on being here now.
Be Here Now
Simple concept, challenging practice.
Where else could you possibly be? Well anywhere, anywhen, anywhat and anywho really, right? Not interested in that work meeting? Boring dinner company? Stuck in traffic? Forced school or family function? Yoga teacher droning on about some such something or other . . . ?
See? Where you there the whole time? Maybe. I hope so. Between your mind and modern technology, you can be wherever and whenever you want in an instant. So why be here now?
Because, and let me pull this one deep from the cliché bin, that’s all that there is. Yes of course the past exists (or existed) but it’s not accessible in a fully experiential way. The future has potential but is as of yet unformed, awaiting information to begin to coagulate into the present and finally set as the past.
Being truly present means experiencing what is happening all around you and in you right now at this moment. Taking the spotlight of sensory experience and broadening it to a floodlight illuminating everything all at once. The clock on the wall is always ticking, but why does it appear to fade in and out based on your attention? Holding your breath or feeling tension somewhere in the body? When we take a moment to be present, it’s much easier to notice and be aware of these things.
And being present isn’t all unicorns and rainbows. Shit happens and it happens in the now. Not wanting to deal with it or face it is not being present; it’s not accepting what is in front of you.
Be present with this one weird trick
While still very much a part of my practice and not anything I’ve come even close to mastering is the practice of equanimity. I think it’s one of the tricks to being truly present. In this context I think of equanimity as a return to center, to a balanced point, or to an equilibrium position if you’re more of a pendulum analogy type of person.
I often see this described as neutrality or unfortunately as indifference, but the first term doesn’t do the experience justice and the second does it quite a disservice. Equanimity is not about disregarding your experience or sensation. Have a great experience in the moment? Enjoy it! Feel the elation Experiencing a tragic event? Allow that emotion to wash over you, pass through stages as necessary, release when it no longer serves you.
The key to equanimity is to allow that pendulum to swing back to center, not chasing that ecstatic feeling on the one end or running from or wallowing in that sensation on the other end. Because that sensation, that experience, like everything else (and I do mean everything) will pass. So if it will pass, and you’re still yearning for or desperately avoiding it, how can you possibly be experiencing the present moment?
This is your mind. It’s a good little monkey and always very curious. Like Curious George the mind always looks for something to get into; it very rarely wants to sit still of its own volition. I used to think meditation was about forcing the monkey mind to behave, to not have thoughts, but later realized it’s much more about having equanimity toward thoughts that arise, because they will arise.
This can be a challenge to being present, but through practices like gratitude, breathing, and mediation you may notice that curious mind settle a bit and rather than simply leaping from branch to branch it’s better able to fully experience the feel of the bark, the rain droplets on the leaves, or the give of the branch.
If you find yourself trying to be present, in the moment and failing, noticing that your mind has been distracted and has wandered off to something else - great! You noticed that that happened, that’s the first step. It may also be the millionth step. Be ok with that, forgive yourself if you’re being hard on yourself about it and come back to now. It’ll always be here ready for you to join it.
Thank you and we love you,
Marco and the BHNY family
P. S. - Remember, no matter what, everything is going to be ok!