How can we live in the present?

How can we live in the present?One of the greatest yoga teachers of our time, B.K.S. Iyengar*, tells us:

“Poets and wise men since the beginning of the written word have enjoined us in all culture to live in the present moment because it is all we really have.  Have you ever wondered, while watching nature films on television in which herds of beautiful gazelles are constantly surrounded by marauding predators, why their life is not a living hell of fear and insecurity? How can they live their family lives of courtship, procreation, joy in their own physical perfection, knowing that the inevitable end will be in the lion’s maw? You cannot say it is dull fatalism, or lack of imagination. If they lacked imagination why would they run away so fast? The answer must be that they have the capacity to live in the present moment as it is and not as it might be. Those who live in reality, which can only be the present, will assuredly die, but will have lived before they die. Many people die without having lived. This is true cellularly as well as psychologically. By perfect positioning in asana, we flood our cells with life, which is nothing but present awareness. The cells too will die – but first they will have lived.”

The same is true when we are happy. When we are happy, we also flood our cells with life, bringing our entire being into alignment with what is, not what was or what will be. To be happy is to be in the now, but what does that really mean? In-the-now is not a place in time, is it? If it were, then where was I was a moment ago? In The Then? I point this out because I hear the tendency in people to strive to be in this thing called The Now, as if it were a preferred destination, like the Italian Riviera. I’ve slipped into that way of thinking as well. When I do, it helps me to think of it as Being Now. Being Now is who I am and is actually the only thing possible for me like those lovely, leaping gazelles.

So can we really be like gazelles and live lives that are “not a living hell of fear and insecurity” as Iyengar says? Can we live in the present, be in the now, be now, or however you like to think about it?  What would you like the answer to be? What have you experienced it to be? If you’ve ever been happy for even a moment, you know the answer. There’s a letting go in happiness that suspends notions of time. We abandon ourselves to the moment, free of fear and insecurity. We aren’t thinking that we don’t deserve to be happy or that it could be bad for us to be happy. We aren’t thinking that we will be unhappy in the future. We aren’t thinking that there is something wrong with us or that the world is against us. These thoughts are a few of the most common beliefs that mire us in unhappiness and take us out of the present. They are the true launchpad for unhappiness, more than any life event, small or large.

The more we free ourselves of these beliefs, the more present we will be and the happier we will be.  Yoga and meditation are wonderful opportunities to free the mind. I am an avid yogini and meditator myself.  But freeing the mind does not necessarily mean understanding our belief systems, which is so crucial to unwind the habit of unhappiness. The simplest, most direct way I know to do this is The Option Method, which deals directly with beliefs about unhappiness and happiness. Using five powerful questions, The Option Method takes you out of fear, anxiety, sadness to a place of peace, clarity and happiness, not just when you are on the mat or in meditation, but every moment of the day.

*Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by B.K.S. Iyengar, p. 235

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