Back to the Present
Have you ever noticed how we get caught up in constantly thinking, brooding over past events, worrying about the future or simply just day-dreaming? We allow our mind to stray and get so absorbed in the details of our thoughts that we miss out on the reality of the present, thereby losing the most valuable gift we have – the present moment.
The present moment is where we are, but instead of focusing on the now, we waste time living in our thoughts. When we are attending a lecture or a discourse, when we are reading or relaxing, the mind interrupts us with distracting thoughts. The mind likes to be distracted, it is accustomed to wandering and naturally inclined to dwell on the negative, stirring up our emotions and causing mental agitation. It traps us in the past and the future, whether through anger over a betrayal, at being treated unfairly, in reliving past struggles, in fear of losing something or through stress about some perceived problem. Just a single thought can keep us in a state of anxiety.
Obeying the dictates of the mind and allowing it to run wild feeds the ego, and the more we feed the ego the harder it is to find the reality that we seek. Ego creates mental agitation and prevents us from stilling our minds. So we need to control the ego in order to still our minds and experience reality. Only when we are present, in the here and now, can we still the mind and discover our higher purpose.
Our essence is spiritual and our greatest need is to discover our true nature. Throughout the ages, saints and mystics have told us that meditation on God’s Word helps us discover who we are. They speak from their own experience and lovingly encourage us to discover that truth for ourselves. They say that by following the instructions of a perfect living Master and meditating with a focused mind on God’s Word we will realize the Divine. It all sounds so simple, but it is extremely difficult to do this; how do we stop the mind from bombarding us with so much inner chatter all the time? It does not want to listen. The inner chatter may be about a disagreement we had with a colleague, our finances, shopping lists, health issues, appointments, relatives, children, unfinished work, deadlines and so forth. Even when we sit down for meditation, our mind keeps distracting us with countless thoughts. How do we shut down all that inner dialogue? How can we focus the mind inward and upward when it has been so scattered into the outside world for millions of years?
Saints say that with the help of meditation on God’s Word, we have to train the mind in order to conquer it. A one-pointed mind can be cultivated throughout the day by giving our complete attention to whatever we are doing. Most of our problems in life are caused by the mind weaving out of the here and now, and we make our problems even bigger by feeding them with our attention. When we sit, we have to direct our attention back to our meditation. Every time we lose focus, we have to keep bringing it back to the present again and again. Even if the mind wanders sixty times in sixty minutes of our meditation, we have to keep bringing it back to the present to focus on the task at hand. It is a question of training and discipline. To gain mastery at anything, you have to practise till you succeed. Athletes have to undergo strenuous training to succeed at their sport. Inventors have to work very hard to successfully create something original. Learning to play a musical instrument comes with constant daily practice. We have to practise, practise, and keep practising our meditation and not give up. Effort and persistence is the key.
Meditation is very difficult but not impossible. We have to constantly struggle with the mind. Sometimes it gets so difficult that we feel like such failures but as Maharaj Charan Singh says in Die to Live , even our attempts are to our credit because only the man who tries to learn to walk or run will fall. He explains that our failures are part of our ultimate success and we should not feel dejected but go on making attempt after attempt. When the saints ask us to bring our failures to them, they mean that we should at least keep giving our time to meditation, whether we notice any results or not. Every meditation is good. No meditation is bad.
Saints and mystics remind us that we are sailing on an ocean of impermanence. Everything and every experience is transient. We are so caught up in the world of thoughts, feelings and desires that we forget that time is just slipping by. The present moment is the only time we have to fulfil our purpose in life. The eye centre is the place to start. Through constant meditation, we have to train the mind to go inward and upward, and every time it decides to wander off we have to keep bringing it back to the present again and again. When we eventually experience that stillness and listen, really listen to God, we will directly experience the Truth.
Do not pursue the past.
Do not lose yourself in the future. The past no longer is.
The future has not yet come.
Looking deeply at life as it is in the very here and now,
the practitioner dwells in stability and freedom.
We must be diligent today.
To wait until tomorrow is too late.
Buddha, Bhuddekaratta Sutta