Maybe you're sick of hearing people talk and write about living in the Now. Let's dissect it one more time. I hope you will join me in my efforts to stay in the day. Be here now, sure, but how?
Twelve Step groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous teach newcomers to take it a day at a time. We can't quit drinking forever, so there's no point in thinking or saying, "I'll never drink again." The same thing applies to quitting drugs forever or any other dis-ease that is result of making something other than the Divine your power greater than yourself to whom you surrender all. We sought to fill up that always ravenous, parched emptiness inside--the big hole we kept trying to fill with food, sex, drugs, booze, gambling, and so on, but it is, as they say in A.A., a God-shaped hole and only accepting Oneness with the Divine can completely fill that empty space of pain and longing. What we cannot give up forever, we can abstain from just for a day--five minutes at a time if need be.
Newly sober and clean addicts and alcoholics are an excellent example of people who must dive in and take a crash course in living in the Now. Their lives depend on staying out of the past and future as much as possible because they are still so close to their using and drinking and relapse may be the direct result of those thoughts. "Just because you think a thought doesn't mean you have to entertain it," one of my spiritual teachers told me when I was new in recovery. "You don't have to get out the tablecloth, light the candles and set the table for it." In learning how to better meditate, hard with my monkey-mind, I try to practice what I have learned from others about just observing a thought that comes unwanted and unbidden as if it were a cloud passing by. "Thought," the meditating mind might note, and then go back to paying attention to breathing.
One of the cruder things you might hear people share as wisdom at an A.A. or N.A. meeting is this: "If you have one foot in yesterday and one foot in tomorrow, you are pissing all over today. No need to get upset worrying about the wedding you must attend in four months, and whether or not you'll stay clean and sober at the reception. If it's not today, they learn to let go of it.
If newly recovering people, or people who've been clean for a while, or persons without addictions (there must be some out there somewhere), let their minds get away from this very day, this very hour, this very minute, it might take that long-ingrained habitual lonely trip back to the past with all its embarrassments, losses, shame, remorse and self-hatred. Or it might take a fantasy trip to a future that may never come where all of your worries come true: You do end up alone, lonely and forsaken. You do lose someone you love. Something terrible does happen to one of your children. So the newly recovering person gradually comes to change their manner of thinking and to let go of the dead past and the uncertain future and live at peace 24 hours at a time. If they opt to instead dwell on the past or future, they have a good chance of using/drinking, and for them, to go back to that every day hell is to die, literally and suddenly, or just a complete going back to numbness and sickness and dying some every new day.
I was recently reading a daily reflection/meditation sort of book that gave this exercise as a meditation: "I will meditate on how taking care of myself in the present can help me accept my past.and stop worrying about things and circumstances that aren't today." I bet if I had the energy and the time to keep a daily log of how often I drift from the living Now to the dead past and worrisome future I would find that I spend a very small percentage of my days living in the present moment. Yet in the present I have no fears, shame, regrets--none of it, so why wouldn't I want to be here now constantly?
My mind, and maybe yours, is a bad neighborhood I shouldn't travel through alone. Self-love, self-esteem and self-confidence are drowned out by flashes of scandalous, humiliating things I've done or said at some time in my life, and it could be when I was just an innocent child who told a lie to her father or stole change from my mother's purse. Those little failures have grown large and monstrous after all these years of returning to the memories, and I cannot live at peace or love myself when the shame and self-hatred start or the fears begin to trap me and threaten to cause my heart to stop if I don't pay attention to them.
The "Course in Miracles" says that all negative things are the result of fear and that fear is a lack of love. Get rid of those forays into the future where you are terminally ill and in a state nursing facility where you are drugged and disrespected. Here's some things I did to rid myself of my everyday fears. First I admitted I had fears. That took some honesty because denial tells me that I am easy-going, mellow and go with the flow. There are times my heart beats out of my chest and I feel I cannot draw in a breath because I have let my fears scare me so completely. Next, I did a mini-twelth-step program fourth step and took a written inventory of what my primary fears are, why I have them, and what I need to do about each. The A.A. "Big Book" suggests that we review these fears and ask ourselves, "Where has self-reliance failed me? If I truly surrender to a power greater than myself, one that I believe loves me madly and forever and knows the number of hairs on my head, and just wants me to live in joy, love and happiness, I will have no fears. Love comes in and does for me what I cannot do for myself.