Valerie Harper, the actress who played Rhoda Morgenstern on the Mary Tyler Moore Show was recently diagnosed with brain cancer and given three months to live. “I don’t think of dying, I think of being here now. If I’m not here now, where am I?”
Yes, where are we when we are not in the now? Valerie Harper’s example is dramatic and inspiring, yet we all are faced with this question, with each breath we take.
We are not in the now when we are in a future story of what if’s and worry. We are not in the now when we are in a past story, ruminating and reviewing and regretting. We are not in the now when we are in the story about what is happening, even if it is happening now. Our stories are useful and valuable to help us make sense of our lives, but our stories are not our lives.
Our experience is our life.
What being in the now means is we feel each moment in the body. Our felt sense of our hands and neck and shoulders and feet, the rhythm of the breath, the flow of aliveness in the nervous system, the sense of expansion or constriction in the chest, the hum of your energy right this moment… The way you feel lifted up or pushed back or still or swirling inside… Can you feel it? Can you feel you?
It is not easy to be in the moment, even though it is the very simplest of concepts. The mind gets the idea in a second. “Oh yeah, be here now.” But there is wiring in us to avoid the moment, to not feel ourselves in the messy complexity of who we are. Being in the moment in the body means we open to a flow of ourselves that we do not consciously create or control. We come face to face with the vulnerable truth of ourselves: we have limits to control over outcomes that matter to us. And the little quivers of anxiety in the body that arise when we are in touch with that truth send us away from ourselves in the moment.
Yet all the things you want in your life hinge on being here now. Your presence is the best medicine for anxiety, depression, loneliness, procrastination, disconnection, compulsive behaviours, and even for physical pain. You want help with anxiety, or help with depression, or help with intimacy, or help with coping better… You want help feeling more joy or more power or more authenticity. And the help is in you, in your ability to be with you, in the moment in the body.
What being in the now means is really feeling yourself. Each step you take has a presence, your presence. Sense your energy in each step, in each action, in each breath, in each word you speak. Say to yourself: “There is no hurry, there is nothing more important than really being here, now. This is where I am.”
No matter how often people suggest you ground yourself and be here, no matter how many yoga classes you take, no matter how many books you read, you need to know it is hard to do this simple little thing. You need compassion and more patience than you can imagine. A link needs to happen inside, a sense of actually feeling yourself physically. As you tune in and feel there will be a bit of anxiety, you will sense a little (or big) urge to move away from this moment, a part of you will say something else is more important than you in the now…
See if you can stay with you in the now nonetheless.
There is nowhere else to be, and nothing more important than your real self right here and now. Being you. Can you feel it?
Photo Credit: Sparker