Thursday, December 23, 2010

Staying in the moment

Inspiration can strike in the most exciting ways when you keep your eyes and ears open to the moment at hand.

All you have to do is stay conscious and be aware of the moment. Every moment. Tend to this moment; it’s all we have.

Easier said than done. Every day is full of traps to rob you of your consciousness, lull you with a dull routine, and pretty much turn your brain off. Ever arrive at work taking the same route as any other day, and suddenly realize you didn’t remember the trip? What a day for a daydream!

How do you stay awake moment to moment, so that when the idea of a lifetime presents itself, you can seize it?

A scream of consciousness!

Sinking into the moment, one is suddenly struck by the realization that the moment is all there is.

There is no time. Yesterday is a collection of moments like this. They cannot be retrieved; what's done is done. Tomorrow will be another such collection; it cannot be accessed, not yet, not ever.

A joke I heard from Barry McGuire, the folk singer who gave the world “Eve of Destruction” and has contributed so much more since that 1965 hit song:

Guy walks into a bar (as so many guys do in jokes) and sees a sign: “Free beer, noon tomorrow.” All right, sez he, I’m coming back to this little gin joint tomorrow for the free beer.

The next day, right before noon, the guy walks in, plants his hands on the counter and says, “Line ’em up. I’m ready for the free beer.” Bartender looks at him as if he’s nuts. “What are you talkin’ about? There’s no free beer today.” The two men quarrel for a few moments, and to emphasis their arguments, they both point at the sign: “Free beer, noon tomorrow.”

That’s when the first guy gets the joke.


Tomorrow doesn’t exist. Only this moment is real.

What does this moment require? That’s the most important question. The conscious person considers the needs of the moment, and acts.

When Barry talked about this, it reminded me of the cover of a book that had a bit of a cult following years ago when I lived in the 1960s (I was very surprised to discover it was published in 1971): Be Here Now. It has always sounded like as good a good philosophy of life as can be summarized in three words.

Mr. McGuire said he encountered the idea in The Sacrament of the Present Moment, written 350 years ago by a priest named Jean-Pierre de Caussade. I ran out and found the priest’s book; it is slow going but it is amazing if a person is so inclined.

Here’s the gist of it: Only this moment is real. You have control only over your actions of this moment.

What do you need to do? Do it. Now.

Do you have a task that appears too much for you? Do you think you can’t possibly handle all that the task requires? Well, do you think you can handle it just for this moment?

Barry spoke in the context of a friend who was trying to stay sober. He asked the man, Do you think you can keep from drinking just for this moment?

“Sure, that’s not so hard.”

OK, How about this moment, now?

“Yeah, I can do that.”

And now this moment, can you keep from drinking for this moment? Great. Now you’re getting the hang of it.

Each day is a collection of moments. Stay in the moment at hand, and do what the moment requires.
Don’t fret over past moments; you cannot change what happened then. Don’t fret over tomorrow; tomorrow doesn't exist — and if you tend to the moment, the needs of future moments will become self-evident. Stay in the present moment.

I believe a scream of consciousness occurs when you drift away for a while, only to occasionally wake up and say to yourself or to the world, “I am here! I can do this!” Staying in the present moment is the key to staying conscious once you’re back.

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