For so many years, I would hear people say “JUST BE”, live in the now and I was like, what the heck are they talking about, just be?! I am here, aren’t I? Isn’t that just being? It has taken me years of healing to reach a place where I can understand what they meant and still even more work to practice it in my life. After all I am a work in progress.
It is one thing to have a belief about what it is to “just be” and it is something completely different to know it, to embody it, to live it. Or should I say to experience it and realize what we just experienced. We have all had moments or seconds when all our thoughts ceased. It is like someone reached up and turned the light switch off. However, we do not always recognize this moment of presence or just being, because we are pulled back into our thoughts again.
The reason this came up for me are actually several reasons, but the initial trigger happened during the week before posting my last article Our Key Purpose in Life. In fact, I almost scrapped the whole article. Let me explain.
I started the article back in August. Usually when I write an article, it takes just an hour or two on a good day, sometimes a little longer. However, this time I was struggling and it required several rewrites. With everything that was going on in my life, it stretched out to more than two weeks before I posted it on September 17.
On Monday September 13, I got a call from my mother’s hospice nurse saying that she was declining but there was no urgency at the time. I knew that my sister was arriving to see her from Indiana the next day and I had a flight scheduled to go down a week later to see them both.
My sister saw her on Wednesday and said she was very conscious and aware. I decided not to go down immediately but to take it day by day. I felt I needed to work because I had a substantial payment coming in on Friday. I thought if she got worse, I could get a quick flight since she was only an hour away. Therefore, I could go early if I needed to, otherwise I would fly down on Monday as scheduled.
The reason I wanted to work was that I had not worked much this year dealing with my father’s illness starting December 2009 and subsequent death in January, and having surgery on my knee February 1st. The surgery did not allow me to work at all since a lot of my work is done on the floor on my knees. As it turns out, I would not have been able to work anyway because my mom fell and fractured her skull in March so I had to fly back down to Mission Viejo.
During her hospital stay, the doctors found out she had Parkinson’s, dementia and lung cancer, so she could no longer live by herself. I had approximately four hours to find her a place to stay because she was refusing additional tests and help from the doctors, and they needed to move her out to free up the bed.
Fortunately, without too much trouble, I did find a nice residential care home for her thanks to a wonderful hospice coordinator. However, mom needed additional income to pay for this care. This required selling my parents house and taking over all the finances. Even with my sister and brother-in-law’s help, it took a lot of time, and I had no income. OK back to the week of September 13.
That Wednesday evening I was listening to a recording of a live talk from the day before by Leonard Jacobson. He is the author of “Journey into Now” which I bought earlier this summer and still have not read. But I liked his talks and was interested in the book. Two similar teachings about being present that I have read are “The Power of Now” and “A New Earth” by Echkart Tolle
Now I am writing an article on our key purpose, which I perceived to be healing. During Leonard’s talk I had a realization that presence was really our purpose which is why I thought about scrapping the article. Then my mom passed away some time during the night of the 16th. I had just received the article back from my editor earlier that night and I just wanted to get it done and posted which is what I did. This is definitely not something I would do now, especially after what I have learned and experienced being present.
Now the article is posted and I receive a comment from a reader that read: “There is no past or future there is only NOW, the PRESENT MOMENT. Your purpose in life is to do whatever you are doing IN THE PRESENT MOMENT IN A MINDFUL MANNER. Giving your full attention to whatever you are doing NOW is your purpose. Now your LIFE’S PURPOSE is what makes everyone seek like a lost soul to find meaning in their lives. If one has no LIFE PURPOSE one can panic. If you live one moment at a time there is no need to panic. I suppose that if we do what we LOVE to do and make that our job we can be happy, but that doesn’t always provide an income. Suppose we just GO WITH THE FLOW and see where life takes us? IN the end I think serving others is the greatest life purpose, we just need to support ourselves on it, or not worry about material possessions.”
Here I was being hit once again with the idea that presence was our key purpose and I actually commented back that I agreed. Here is my reply: “I couldn’t agree more! Even though I did not mention the now or present moment in this article, my intention was to begin to give someone the beginning tools and insights to live in the now. For many, understanding the concept of living in the now is very foreign and hard to understand. They often feel they are giving something up when in truth they are gaining so much more. “
After making this comment, I went into meditation and it was during this time that it became clear that presence is our natural state, not a purpose. That we really do not have to do anything at all to be in this state: we really do just “have to be.” The challenge arrives when we get into our thoughts and try to rationally figure things out. It cannot be experienced through thought or the analytical mind. When you are truly present with someone or something, you are not thinking at all. As I said before, this is something we have all experienced although we may not have recognized it when it occurred because our thoughts started up again without notice or awareness.
Now whether you agree with me or not does not really matter. I want you to always question what is said, and I want you to question your own thoughts in the same way. If we are not actually using our thoughts for a particular purpose, then they are using us to project back into the past or forward into the future. That takes us out of the present moment. You cannot BE in the present moment unless your mind is still.
This does not mean that we stop thinking forever. It means that we have to learn– or should I say remember– how to quiet the mind when it is not in use. Just like turning off a light switch at night before going to bed. Knowing how to turn the thinking on and off is the only way to JUST BE. Really, THINK about it, how often do you actually need to use your mind? Do you need to use it when you are washing the dishes or brushing your teeth?
Think of all the times when it is chattering incessantly at you for no apparent reason at all. Moreover, what is it saying, how wonderful you are? Probably not, it is probably saying something about how you are not good enough or some other untrue thought. On the other hand, maybe it is talking about a comment someone made to you weeks ago or years ago. What purpose does it serve to continue to think something like that repeatedly?
So what’s next, how do you start on this journey? The answer is that you have already started whether you admit it or not, but I will be writing more about this in the future. In the meantime, you can read the last article Our Key Purpose in Life, which offers a few tips. Begin practicing meditation or learning about meditation; there are many kinds. Read the books I mentioned above and more importantly, know that you already know how to do this, just take a second or two and quiet/stop your thoughts. Then begin to notice just how much time your mind is chattering away for no reason and watch what it is saying. Do you really want these kinds of thoughts said to you repeatedly? Then stop it and just be for as long as you can and when another thought comes in quiet the mind again. It will be through this continued practice that just being will become automatic and natural again.
Edited by Elaine Baskin