I teach on Mondays at the University of Kentucky. The students today I find to be engaging, open-minded, and visionary. They keep me young, too. They call me, “Professor.” What they do not know is that, when I’m with them, I am really their student.
Yesterday, as I waited outside a classroom where another course of instruction in Communication was winding down, one of the department heads approached me.
“Steve,” she said. “I’ve read your books and I have one question for you. So how do you live in the now? I mean, this present moment. It’s the hardest thing for me to do. I have so many demands I’m thinking about almost continually.”
I thought, “Gosh, you’ve just described me.”
I didn’t say that to her. In fact, I did not answer her. Instead, I agreed that staying rooted in Now is next to impossible.
But it CAN be done. And, those who are…are increasingly conscious, compassionate, charitable – even enlightened.
As yet, however, who of us has mastered the art of living at the rhythm of NOW?
Here is my practice. But, make no mistake, I’m hardly a guru. Certainly, no master teacher of wisdom. My problem is, instead of present, I’m too often absent. I’m here but usually “there.” Just ask Pam. Which means, I seldom hear what’s happening around me or what’s being said to me, much less what’s going on within me, because I’m too busy talking or thinking thoughts or thinking about the thoughts I’m thinking.
Living at the rhythm of now takes practice. Which is why the 17th century Carmelite monk, Brother Lawrence, called the spiritual disciplines of the soul, “practicing the presence of God.”
1. First, meditate more often than you medicate. The latter is easy. The former tougher. Generally, the spiritual practice of meditation is not as difficult to do for right-brain “intuitives” like myself. Left-brainers, however, will find it a bit more challenging.
Meditation was a frequent spiritual practice of Jesus. You can call it “prayer” if that helps you feel more “Christian” but, if you read the New Testament, Jesus described it as entering the “closet” (Matt 5) a metaphor for your world within. I’ll have a whole chapter devoted to this topic in the newest book I’m writing, Why Are So Many People Unhappy?
2. Second, as soon as you are aware you’re going in circles at the pace of a Daytona 500 driver, stop. Just turn off the engine, even for a few seconds. As you do, be aware of your own “driven-ness.” Turn your thoughts to something like the word, “Sabbath,” a English transliteration of a Hebrew word meaning, literally, “Stop!” Or, in colloquial usage, you could say its meaning is, “Shut up!”
Not bad advice for some of us. Especially me.
3. “But,” you ask, “how do I stop thinking?”
This will be your greatest challenge.
In the east, a teacher once put it like this: “Stop talking, stop thinking; and there is nothing you will not understand.” If you’re one of those who has a hard time making decisions or you so seldom seem to know what you’re supposed to do in any given situation, it’s very likely because you are too seldom still enough…or, silent enough…to feel the pull of your soul or to hear the voice of your spirit.
No judgment here, my friend. Just the way you are. I am. So, can we change?
The “pull of your soul” and “the voice of your spirit” are both there within you. Jesus promised as much, when he said, “And when I go, the Comforter will come and guide you” (Jn 14).
If what you need are answers, stop thinking long enough to hear them. I know that sounds contradictory. But it is true. It is the way of silent guidance. It is aligning yourself to the rhythm of now…your soul.
So, how do you stop thinking or, at a minimum, create some space of stillness between the thoughts that are like endless mind traffic on the Los Angeles 405? Here are the steps to stillness…at least as I practice them.
1) When you are aware that you are thinking, you are but one step from stopping the incessant stream of thinking.
2) So, when you are aware that you’re thinking, see if you can just let go of that thought. Let it pass through your mind as effortlessly as water passes through your hands.
3) Letting the thought go will create a momentary pause in the mind stream.
4) As it does, give your attention to the pause. Even if it lasts only a second or two before another thought appears.
5) Repeat the practice. See what happens.
You my friend are practicing the Presence. As you make this your spiritual practice, the “pauses” will become more frequent and longer lasting. For here’s the spiritual truth you’ve probably never thought about before: You are never closer to God than when you’re not thinking of him.
But don’t think about this too long. Just practice being still…being silent. You’ll understand the other…when you need to understand it.
This is Your Best Life Now!