- Posted: Saturday, March 05, 2005
- 2848 words
ED: Hi. I'm Dr. Ellen Dickstein, and I'm here with bestselling inner life author, Guy Finley.
Guy, I thought that today we would talk about the present moment. It's becoming more and more popular these days for people to talk about living in the present moment, but you've been talking about this for 25 years, so let's start at the beginning: Why is the present moment so important?
GF: If we could understand -- even in a small way -- what the present moment is, we would be so far ahead in our work to become a different kind of human being, that words fail it.
The problem that we face is that when we sit here and talk about the present moment, and people are watching and listening to us, we think about the present moment, and thought can't get into the present moment. Thought belongs to something that is occurring in the present, but the self that thinks about its own thoughts is watching a reflection -- something that has passed down the stream and is no longer a part of the actual moment. So there's the first problem, if you will, that the present moment is actually a world. It is actually a place, a condition, and the condition the present moment represents and that it is in its factuality cannot be entered into by our thinking nature, by our nature that analyzes and wants to approach it. So there's the first problem: With what do I approach it?
Now, the next thing is... in our particular part of the world, we're coming into spring. I was mowing some pastures today and the locust trees were starting to bloom. So every time I would drive underneath these trees with my tractor mower, it would rain this perfumed scent on me. Here's the grass growing, these blossoms opening, me on my trusty mower, and all this is taking place at once. The blossoms open because they are part of a whole movement of forces that are active in the present moment. Take any one of those forces away from the whole of that springtime blossoming, and you don't have a blossom. You have something other than a blossom. Maybe you have something that doesn't blossom. It's the same thing with the human being. We don't blossom as human beings the way we're intended to, because we're not part of the unison of life, of this present moment with all of its active forces that are intended to produce, in the world outside of us and in the world inside of us, this constant change -- and not just change in the way we think of it, but in terms of its forwarding, perfection, development. Everything continues to develop that's part of the present moment because it is being fed by a stream of forces that are the ground of that present moment.
So, why is it important? Because nothing changes in us in a positive, upward manner until we ourselves become attuned to the present moment. Then we get it.
One more example: If you've had a problem that you've struggled with, and then come to the end of the struggle, there is always this semi-barren moment. For one thing, you can't go any further; you don't know what to do. It's out of that semi-barren moment that there is a blossoming of a new understanding. The semi-barren moment represents that instant in us in which our thought nature can no longer find itself. In essence, it has to be put aside. The mind sees its own inability to solve the problem. In that split second, we have a minute example of where a certain unifying process takes place in us, and for that moment of integrity of all of our parts, suddenly a light goes on. I see it. "Ah, now I understand." That's what is supposed to happen to us all the time. Our lives are intended to be rooted in a completely different order of reality wherein it isn't change that we're trying to effect in order to get a different sense of ourselves, but rather the actual sense of our self is being born present moment to present moment to present moment. And it's good, true, and rich enough in itself that we don't need to try to control events.
ED: It sounds as though being in the present moment should be the most natural thing in the world, but anybody who has ever tried to keep attention focused in the now, knows it is almost impossible. Why is it so difficult for us to come into the present moment and stay there?
GF: Let's make a little aim for ourselves that the whole time we're talking, we're going to do the very best we can to remain awake and aware of ourselves in the moment. Now, does that mean that I have to stop talking?
ED: I hope not!
GF: You know why you hope not? Because you flashed into time, because a part of you immediately jumped out, in a manner of speaking, and evaluated what this moment would be like without me doing the talking, and you'd be left doing whatever it is you would be doing... and there was fear in it, wasn't there?
GF: So we can see that fear and living in time (meaning being in a thought nature that evaluates its conditions by considering its environment through associative powers of the mind) always produces a fear.
So, back to the question of why it is so difficult to remain in the present moment. It's because we're just not used to the food of it. We're not used to the kind of energy that, by the way, we flower under and with... we're not used to that. We're used to a certain kind of sensation that thought produces as it jumps back and forth and all around, into the fear, into trying to find controls for that fear, or whatever it may be. We're used to a nature that is self-stimulating by its own thought process.
We are not intended to be self-stimulating creatures. We're intended to be men and women who are part of a process in which, through our awareness, we are able to see all of the kinds of thoughts and feelings that are coming up in us. That's in the present moment. My awareness of these things is the present moment. There is no difference in reality between awareness of the present moment and the present moment that one is aware of. They're actually one thing. It's not like there is this place called the present moment. There is our awareness, and that awareness in this moment of ourselves includes everything that is taking place.
I think of a river, and in my mind, I look slightly upriver and think, "Oh, there's something coming [good or bad]," and that sets me up. I'm now separate from what I'm looking at, and I think, "Oh, here it comes. It's getting better. It's getting closer. Wait. Stop! Don't go." Now it's bad. So that's how we see things, because our mind always relates to the world around us through thoughts about things. Real life doesn't have thoughts about things in it; it has the expression of life that those thoughts describe. We are intended to be in relationship with that life, that energy -- not the words that we have become addicted to using for the purpose of describing that.
For all intents and purposes, we have become not only conditioned by our own words, but the words we use, in turn tend to be self-conditioning. We rarely have a moment in which we're just with ourselves, in the present moment, because our mind is caught with trying to get a sense of security and well-being out of whatever it's holding in its mind.
That's why it's so hard. It's hard because I'm habituated to a sense of self brought about by thinking about myself. Now, how would one ever even begin to give that up? By beginning to see some of the things we're talking about.
Every human being is born with an imperative, and the imperative is to be a part of the process of the development and perfection of consciousness. It's an imperative. It's part of why we explore, seek, and want to discover. It's part of the whole process of human movement out towards technological advancement. It was never to get quite the way it did, because it was intended inwardly to become a self-searching mechanism. That self-searching mechanism, that imperative is only fulfilled when (back to what I said in the beginning) we are part of all of the forces in the present moment. The awareness that I have that is the same as the present moment is capable of recognizing, being conscious of, all the aspects of myself simultaneously. That constant turning with that light of awareness transforms what is turning -- transforms me. I transcend myself, but only when I can be in the present moment.
ED: This all reminds me of something you said recently that was so remarkable. You said that the present moment is the same present moment now as it was five hundred years ago. There is just one present moment. That is so comforting, because it's like what you were saying about the river -- I don't have to be part of all these things coming and going down the river. If I'm in the present moment now, I'm part of an eternal moment through which everything passes.
GF: And the only way that I can know that eternity of now (because it's true) is how? Not by thinking about it, but by being in relationship with it. And how do I come into relationship with the present moment other than through my awareness, which is a window into, or which is an aspect of it?
When I can be awake and aware (and everybody has done this) -- I go out into nature and see some panorama, a starlit night, the cerulean blue sky when the sun is going down -- and because of my awareness of it, I experience something of the timelessness of it. Now, if we could "amplify" that idea, we'd start to recognize that the more I'm capable of being present to myself in this moment, the more potential there is for me to share in what is a limitless possibility, because this present moment has no constraints!
Look, what am I limited by? If you examine yourself in the moment, you'll see that when you run into problems, the problems you run into have to do with things your mind has projected as being real, unassailable, unchangeable. But if you live in the pure possibility of the present moment, then the very presence of yourself in that ends that part of you that looks at life and says "it can't be done." The only thing that can't be done is because there's a you in the past that is measuring a you in the present and says "there's no point to it."
So there are so many reasons why it's critical for us to understand what it means to live in the present moment. It's where things are refreshed. It's where things are reborn. It's where things die.
ED: Looking at it from the point of view of how do we do that work, you gave a talk the other day where you likened the mind to a horse that keeps going off into the wrong pasture and eating loco weed. You said that we have to watch this horse of our mind and make sure that it goes into the right pasture where it gets the nourishing food, which is the food of the present moment.
GF: Yes. And it's confusing to people, so it would be good to clear it up. You can bring your awareness into the present moment by becoming aware of what's happening to you, in you, in the present moment. What does that mean? You can sense your own body. Do it. You can sense your own body, your own emotional state, your thoughts. That sensing is a certain kind of energy, and that certain kind of energy is a present energy because it relates to a present state of consciousness. So when I can be present to myself, it means that I am sensing myself presently. That energy is what allows us a window into my body. Is there tension in my right leg because I've got it propped up underneath the chair? Is my throat dry? I can sense all of myself, and if I'm willing to do it, then I am in the present moment because that's where the sensing is taking place.
Now, a person says, "Well, that's fine, but I have a responsibility. I've got to do this, that or the other... " Let's examine that. What do you have to do other than be wholly present to yourself in the moment? Because if I'm not aware of these thoughts and feelings -- and let's go back to what we said about how awareness lets us be in relationship with it -- then a thought that comes into my mind that I'm not present to, that tells me I have to do certain things or otherwise this is going to happen, now what? I'm not in the present moment anymore. I'm in time with that thought, and I'm being convinced by it's content (which is fear-filled) that if I don't do what it tells me to do, something bad is going to happen to me. Well, what worse can happen to me than to not be in the present moment where I can change, and instead be in the past, being changed by a conditioned aspect of myself?
ED: Yes. It makes you wonder, if I'm not paying attention to what's going on, what is running my life in this moment?
GF: This is such a valuable question, Ellen. If we were willing to ask this of ourselves, over and over again, simply to come back and notice, "Wow. I got so carried away when I was talking to so and so that I said things I didn't want to say. Who said that? I know I didn't want to." So we work at bringing ourselves back, and bringing ourselves back, and bringing ourselves back. Why? Because it is by being present to ourselves that we begin to tap into a kind of power that makes it impossible for us to turn ourselves over to what has made us powerless.
These thoughts and feelings... they don't have power of their own, Ellen... the things that punish us are really quite powerless. It's our relationship with these things that gives them authority over us. We can take the authority back by bringing ourselves back, again and again, into the present moment, where I actually see the quality and character of these things. Then I can begin to change because I'm present where change takes place.
ED: You've talked about being a "message catcher," that there is constantly help coming to us, and if we're not in the present moment, we can't be a message catcher.
GF: Doesn't that locust tree that's blossoming catch the message from the sun? And doesn't the energy from the sun give that tree, in combination with all the elements in the ground and the water and air, give it all it needs to flower? In a very similar fashion, as human beings we are created to catch impressions, to catch the world around us all the time and its relationship within us producing this constant change. Our recognition and willingness to watch and realize all of that produces the very thing that we've been after all of our lives, which is the peace that is found in the present moment, and again, the end of being powerless because we haven't been in right relationship with that.
ED: Speaking of a practice that can put us there, you've talked about the importance of "ceaseless prayer" as a way of keeping ourselves from wandering off like the horse.
GF: It's difficult to answer in such a short time, but an unattended mind is the breeding ground of self-defeat, and the more we're willing to attend to ourselves -- if we just give ourselves a simple ceaseless prayer, if we work at something -- then our mind can't go off on its own merry jaunts. When it starts to go away, because I have a singular intention, now I become conscious of that intention, and I can bring myself back to the present moment. Ceaseless prayer or mantra in themselves are valueless. They are a means to being able to see ourselves and stay with ourselves in the present.
ED: Thank you, Guy.
This has been a Fireside Chat with bestselling inner life author, Guy Finley. I'm Dr. Ellen Dickstein. Thanks for joining us.