Do we live in the now - or work on manifesting a dream future?
Creating your reality
Popular books like Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now and other ‘non-duality’ teachings (such as ‘The Work’ of Byron Katie) suggest that this moment is all there is - and teach us to be fully present with it. In other words, fully embrace and enjoy the present moment - because it’s all you’ve got.
The Law of Attraction teachings acknowledge the power of the present moment, but also tell us that we create our own reality and what we focus on can become our real-life experience. This teaching tells of a law which gathers together likeminded thoughts, experiences, people and situations. When you are fully in the now, satisfied through the moment through accepting it or daydreaming about your future, the Law of Attraction philosophy says - you receive your dreams.
I used to think these two ways of looking at life were incompatible. And, it seems, other authors agreed with me. Some years ago, when I talked with a well-known proponent of ‘the now’, she acknowledged that by living in the moment seemingly good things (and synchronicities) happened to her - but stopped short of discussing how. Creating her reality wasn’t a point of interest for he and she didn’t see the two theories and reconcilable.
Since our conversation - and after facilitating hundreds of groups on the subject - I now understand that not only are both vantage points describing the same truth, but they are also a great help to one another. Both teachings are actually all about fully enjoying your ‘now’ moment.
True passion is found not just in ‘making do’ with the lives we have now - to feel fully alive requires a little excited anticipation. And yet, we don’t want to anticipate so much we fall into a feeling of longing or dissatisfaction with our current lives. It’s a fine line and requires practice.
“I’ll be happy when…”
I spent years ‘on my way’ to being good enough in my life. Just one more yoga class or one more technique and I’d be ‘healed’ or ‘enlightened’. When I initially discovered the Law of Attraction, I took this ‘on my way’ attitude with me. “When I manifest more money or I get a relationship or have my dream career,” I said to myself, “then I’ll be good enough”.
And just like tomorrow never coming in the popular phrase, neither did my ‘reward’ of being good enough. Because when I did get the relationship and the career, I still wasn’t happy.
I remember one woman telling me about her Vision board - which is where someone arranges a collage of pictures and words, usually taken from magazines, describing things they would like to experience in their life. This woman was lonely and wanting to be married and so she put up a photograph of a married couple on it in order to ‘manifest’ it. But her approach backfired. Every time she woke up, her Vision board was there to remind her that she wasn’t married. And here she was, years later, single and lonelier than ever - the now-tattered board still up on her wall. She was completely deflated about the Law of Attraction.
That’s not to say Vision boards don’t work (they do) - but they need to be balanced with a healthy dose of loving the now.
A word about Desire
There’s something about desire and spiritual teaching that don’t always blend well. When you realise that being enlightened or finding peace is a desire too, you realise that we are all creatures of ongoing desire, whether we like it or not. It is attachment to desire which causes problems, as Buddha said - not desire itself.
We are all living in the now. The question is, how are we doing that? You can be in the now in misery or be in the now in happiness. The misery holds you away from the manifestations you want and the happiness allows you to flow toward them.
The way to bring these teachings together is to express and expect our desires to be fulfilled - and then fully engage with the moment. The perfect combination to living a joyful life is to excitedly anticipate a wonderful future whilst fully loving your current life.
Accepting where you are
Accepting where you are often requires confronting your frightening thoughts rather than trying to resist them. As a child, I remember a short picture book that highlighted this. In the story, a child was walking through a forest away from a cat that seemed to be following her. With every step, the cat grew bigger and bigger in her mind. Towards the end of the book, she turns to face this ‘monster’ and begins confidently walking towards it. It gets smaller and smaller until by the end it’s just this sweet little kitten - which it always was.
I see a lot of people trying to push away their fearful thoughts - and the war begins. You have to allow them and even learn to love them. People are scared that if they accept something it will take over - but the opposite is true. ‘What you resist, persists’ said Carl Jung.
Meditation and deep, conscious breathing are ways to relax into the present moment. The silence - and the breath - connects you with the best of the now.
Appreciation and gratitude
Another process I teach and highly recommend is making lists of things in your life you appreciate. But don’t just write one or two statements. Set some time aside and keep on writing until you run out of things to write about. Then you will be forced to start looking for the good in ‘unwanted’ situations, which will transform them.
When you are outside, feel your feet on the ground. Slow down your walking pace. Feel you breaths in and out. Relax into the moment. When eating, eat slowly and taste your food. Appreciate this moment.
In my experience, appreciating the now alone can give you peace, calm and contentment - but it won’t give you the charisma, spark and excitement that ‘forward focusing’ brings. And that is why I also teach Visualisation.
Another reason I recommend that people visualise - that is spend some moments anticipating a ‘dream’ future - is to practice a pleasant, good-feeling scene to ’switch to’ to replace any images of fear. For example: if you have images of a fearful scenario about health, by conjuring an image of you feeling healthy and beautiful running along a beach, you create a mental space that in time and with repetitive practice will replace the fearful one. The more you practice, the more the scene will become real - similar to a memory. It’s not so much to ‘make anything happen’ but rather to create a relaxing sanctuary for you to return to. Making something happen is hard work, whereas visualising for the fun of it is a pleasurable experience. It sounds subtle but it’s a huge difference: you want to go to the relaxing image for the enjoyment of the image not to try to change anything. It’s again about enjoying the present moment.
Enjoying your life, now
As you read this article, admire the technology of the internet and how it can deliver so much information to right where you are. Feel your breath going in and out. Look around you and look for things to appreciate. Imagine good things. Your life is now - so enjoy it.
Whatever you are doing, there’s no choice but to be in the Now. The question is, are you enjoying it? You don’t attract what you want - you attract what you are. As you fully enjoy this moment, whether it be though imagination or appreciation of what’s around you, you open the doorway to your best future.
First published in Mind Body Spirit magazine Spring/Summer 2012