“Life is only available in the present moment.” — Thich Nhat Hanh

How do we balance the lessons of the past and the possibilities of the future? The fulcrum point is the present, the here and now. Perhaps nothing is so challenging in a world filled with nonstop media, messaging, news, and chaotic noise than to enter into a place of centeredness in the here and now.

As a graduate student, I came across a culturally phenomenal book called “Be Here Now” written by Ram Dass, a former Harvard faculty member who hung out and dropped LSD with Timothy Leary. He had discovered a transcendental consciousness and unifying life theme in the concept of being fully present in the here and now.

What does this mean, and how do we achieve it? Here are a couple more informative quotations:

Albert Schweitzer, a renowned physician, musician and missionary tells us:

“There is within each of us a modulation, an inner exaltation, which lifts us above the buffetings with which events assail us. Likewise, it lifts us above dependence upon the gifts of events for our joy.”

Rumi, a Persian mystic and poet wrote:

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’ doesn’t make any sense.”

They all refer to a space of oneness, of wonder, of connection in consciousness mediated through the here and now awareness.

This can be a challenge. I’m enjoying an assignment for our Physician Healer Track called the “CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) Journal for Dummies.” Recently, there was an exercise in becoming more fully present and that can be practiced to improve and train our attention.

• Take a walk in a non-stressful environment, perhaps the beach, your yard, neighborhood, or a forest.

• One by one, spend a minute or two focusing on each of the following:

The feeling of the ground beneath your feet;

Things you can see around you;

Things you can hear;

Anything you can smell; and

The wind, sun, or rain against your skin.

• Go back through your senses for about 10 minutes and then try and take in the whole environment together for another two minutes.

If your thoughts or attention drift, just notice and gently bring them back.

Many other methods of entering into an attentive here and now include focusing on our breathing, meditation, prayer, singing, chanting, mindfulness practice, meditative movement like tai chi or yoga, repetitive exercise like running or walking.

Every moment is the here and now. Practicing being there is a doorway into greater consciousness, peacefulness, and relaxation. Such singular presence and attention to the present prepares us for whatever happens next in life. We will face it more centered, blissful, relaxed, in tune with what is happening, not what might happen or might have been.

Breathe.

Dr. Victor S. Sierpina is the WD and Laura Nell Nicholson Family Professor of Integrative Medicine and Professor of Family Medicine at UTMB.

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