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We humans struggle so with such earnest and angst about problems, issues, decisions, and judgments, when 99 percent of it is an illusion—even that awareness can be equally upsetting.
I’ve found in my research that this 99 percent illusion is primarily composed of our inability to, or lack of, focus on the present moment. Now is who you are. Now is where heaven is. Now is simultaneously the way and the destination. Now is home.
Take a look at what you have been worrying about. Is any of it actually happening now, or is it really happening in the past or the future? One double-edged capability we all have is to put our thoughts and our feelings into the past or the future.
If I were to ask you if you are in the present moment when you are crying, you’d say “yes” because that sorrow seems to be happening right now. If you are in physical pain, you would most certainly claim to be in the present moment, if for no other reason than the pain itself seems to force you there. But this is, once again, an illusion.
Pain, suffering, grief, jealousy, anger, and the rest of what we refer to as “negative” emotions are really all connected together in a sort of past-experience matrix. The fear of pain, suffering, and so on, is a future projection connected to that matrix. Pain, especially if it is excruciating, convinces us that the now is painful and forces us into a “future” where that pain is gone. And with chronic pain, depression sets in from living in a desperately desired future that never comes.
The big “secret” is that we are all hardwired for joy, and that joy is only found in the present moment. I say “hardwired” because joy is the basic and primal driving justification for existence. All of our attention, intention, and striving is for one purpose, and one purpose only: joy.
As famed mystic and intellectual Alan Watts said, “Ecstasy, by one road or another, is inevitable.” I would venture to say that the reason this is hardwired is because that is who we are, and this is reflected in our brain-body-mind.
The “road” Watts refers to is made of decision and intention. We decide to leave the past and the future and intend to experience joy. The space between leaving the non-present and entering into the now is what we call “time.” Have you noticed that when you are fully in joy, or even just really happy, time fades away? And yet, when we are in pain, time seems to go on forever?
One conundrum of human existence is that joy is the only thing that brings us into the present moment. It is always an option, and as such is just a decision away. It may be a chirping bird, the sweet scent of a rose wafting through the air, fluffy clouds in a deeply blue sky, infinite stars in a cloudless sky, or the sense of breathing in the sweet, living air, the faint pulse of our heart in our knees, the wonderful healing heat of rubbing our hands together. Whatever it is, it can immediately bring us to the now.
This is a skill. But there is an overarching principle here that is important: what we pay attention to expands. The more joy we decide to perceive, the more joy becomes apparent and will crowd out any pain and suffering. Continue to be with joy, and soon your life will reflect back to you more and more reasons for joy.
And because joy is who and what we are, this can happen quickly. Appreciation and gratitude are more skills to apply in getting to the now.
The other “secret” that we all really know is what some call “faith”; others call it “contextualizing.” We have “faith” that what we think is happening to us is positive and leads us to more joy, more healing, more happiness. Referring back to Watts’ statement that “ecstasy is inevitable,” we all get there, either in life or by death.
For example, one person is coping with an aching knee and “has faith” or contextualizes that he is “getting old” and the knee is breaking down. Alarmed, he visits his doctor who runs a couple of tests, and although there was nothing conclusive, the knee may be arthritic and prescribes various drugs for the pain and inflammation. Further alarmed, this person has now decided he has arthritis in his knee, and if he doesn’t take the drugs, the pain is worse. Soon, X-rays show that the cartilage in the knee is shrinking, and soon the doctor recommends surgery.
On the other hand, a person with a pain in his knee has faith that it is a new energy pattern to improve or heal a weak knee. The person is excited about having a healed knee, and in a few days, the pain is gone and the knee feels stronger.
In the first case, the person has stepped away from the present moment into futures of pain and suffering. In the second example, the person has chosen to step into the joy of the now and the healing of the knee.
In both cases, where the attention went is what expanded.
Allow the option of joy at every opportunity. Exercise that skill and it will grow stronger and more effective. Let the pain and worry of life be a cue to find joy, and soon the real, ecstatic you is revealed in all its wondrous healing glory.