How often do you worry about the future? Or feel stuck or drawn back by something or someone in the past that you can’t seem to get past?
Human mind and emotion have a persistent way of distracting us from the present. We struggle with the business of being human–that is, surviving physically and emotionally–and we think far too much about it, often engendering fear. This is our nature and our habit, and it is reinforced relentlessly by our cultures (including family, work, and community cultures) and by the realities of survival. We are shaped by our pasts, by our attachments and experiences, our successes and joys, and as well by our losses and difficulties. These influences have a way of lingering, especially the traumatic or painful ones, and informing how we approach and respond to life. We can easily become preoccupied with trying to heal our pasts and secure our futures, even when we try hard to maintain balance. Of course we have a difficult time experiencing the here and now!
But all we really have is the present. Right now. If we spend too much time on the past or the future, we miss the now. And now is where our emotional and spiritual joy resides.
So how can we go about being present to the present?
Actor Bill Murray spoke about this recently in an excellent interview with Charlie Rose and shared some interesting and valuable insight on how he has learned to be present. In his words, he made a decision to be “alert and available.” By that he means mindful of what is happening now, and willing to engage with it.
Being “alert” means being open to and aware of what is happening now. This means awareness of your outer and objective surroundings, as well as inner awareness, attentiveness to your subjective environment.
Being “available” means being open and willing to engage with what is going on, inside and outside of you.
Bill Murray gives some practical illustrations of how this kind of mindfulness works for him. He has simplified his life to make time for the present. And he takes action when he is moved to. For example, if he is walking down a street and sees a game of ball on a corner lot, he is known to stop and ask if he can join in. He looks, sees, and if he feels drawn to engage, he does.
Being alert and available is a simple formula for being present. And it promises dividends in the form of reduced anxiety and increased satisfaction with life. It may seem an overwhelming task at times, but you can approach it gently. Begin just by making an intention to be present. This is one case where wishing does help make it so!
Practicing awareness and engagement offers you an avenue for expression: an opportunity to discover and share your self light and creative individuality with the rest of us. As you connect with your self and the world around you, and it connects with you, we each have the occasion grow and share our generative potential.
But first you have to be willing, ready, and available.
Start small, with just one moment: stop, look, listen. Where are you? What do you notice? How do you feel? Then engage, in whatever way moves you.
Smell the roses.
The Bill Murray interview is worth watching. You can find it on Hulu.com or through this link: http://www.charlierose.com/watch/60340546