I believe that the ideas of being present and here now are some of the most misguided ideals ever communicated.
In an earlier article of mine, I discuss spiritual hypocrisy and the harms that spiritual expectations can cause.
It’s a favorite topic of mine, because I always have a great deal to learn about myself, people and life. Not only have I been let down by my own spiritual expectations, I’ve seen so many people hurt by the demands to meet a spiritual ideal.
Until a person is truly present, the ideal is all that is possible.
The form of spirituality is fragile because it is incomplete.
A truly present person can never speak and judge others for not being present. They are so in the moment that it’s totally acceptable for each person to be where they are in their spiritual journeys. With a person who truly abides in the now, there is an innate trust and love of life that belays any expectations, demands or righteous condemnations.
When encountering a person who criticizes others about being present and who makes demands about being here now, that is a person who is still seeking and has not yet found the way to their spiritual home.
The person who really lives in the moment would never judge others or put them down for “not being in the moment.”
The bible talks about the kingdom of heaven being now. Yogic philosophy talks about now being the moment, the integration of self that is that sublime state of yoga. Buddhism, Taosism and meditation paths espouse the bliss of now. And popular books and figures talk about “Be Here Now,” “The Power of Now,” and “How to Now.”
New age marketing profits from people who do not know their own truth.
The wisdom presented in new age philosophy and ancient mysticism has one purpose: to point the way for self-knowledge.
The methods of enlightenment are mere words. They are not the culmination of the journey. Knowing some words and ideas is meaningless. It’s like having a treasure map with no treasure.
The kinds of people who seek out this type of knowledge recognize and acknowledge that they are not complete within. The very idea that there is something wrong with oneself is often the motivating force for spiritual salvation.
A person who loves their life will not ever seek enlightenment. They don’t need help, guidance or anything. They are already complete.
And the people who are critical of their own selves, who judges themselves as not-good-enough will judge others as they relate to their own selves, with judgmental criticism. The manner of relating to others is exactly the same as the relationship they have to their own selves. This is why spiritual people can be so harmful—with the best intentions the words can be hurtful, cutting and abrasive.
The person who sees their own self as unwhole can only see others as incomplete.
Unless that other person happens to be a big name or well known-guru. Then that person must be god on earth and their word can never be challenged. (Yes, that was sarcasm.)
Some of the simple pieces fell together for me when I heard this story of a farmer who lived in California. I will tell it as it was told to me.
“My grandfather was the kindest man I ever knew. He was peaceful and got along with everybody. He was a farmer in California, and never practiced any spiritual system. He wasn’t even religious and never went to church. His only advice to me was to let go of anger, speak gently, walk the land, stretch the body while laying in bed and appreciate what life had given. He died in his 90s, and was the happiest person I had ever met.”
In my opinion, that is a true zen master.
He simply loved life and appreciated who he was.
And I bet he never told a single person to be present or live in the moment.
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Editor: Catherine Monkman