I was backpacking in the Olympics in early August, and was sitting at a beautiful Lake Angeles, enjoying the sun and scenery. Next to me was a Meet Up group from Seattle, and they too were enjoying the moment.
Then the mind took over. I heard one guy begin to talk about how long it took to get up the mountain, and then he estimate how long it would take to go back down. So suddenly, they were out of the present moment. They were focused on time, a trap of the mind.
Then they started futurizing, how often do the ferries run, when does the last one leave. This was accompanied by just a slight bit of anxiety or fear or missing the ferry. Soon one person pulled out his phone and soon had the ferry schedule. More people got involved in the conversation, and soon there were few members of the group who were still present to the beauty in front of us. Of course, I felt a slight annoyance, as my own mind jumped in to consider them less zen than me, my judgment proving me wrong.
The mind continued to funnel people’s energy out of the present moment, because to the egoic mind, the present moment is a threat you know. The egoic mind gets busted when presence or spirit shows up, as it realizes that it is over matched and underqualified to be leading our lives and controlling everything. So it distracts us from the present moment.
Soon there was talk of food. Are you full? Did you get enough to eat? When do you think we will be hungry again? when should we leave? Should we eat in Pt Angeles, or wait until Edmonds or Seattle. Then one started sharing her craving for an alcoholic beverage, and soon a few of the people just had to have a drink.
The present moment, this pristine setting and clear water became nonexistent. Author Eckhart Tolle says, “Whatever the ego seeks and gets attached to are substitutes for the Being that it cannot feel.” When we lose touch with reality, with our spiritual essence and sustenance, we look outside ourselves for temporary nourishment, only to be disappointed again and again.
The thing is, there is no peace outside the present moment. Oh, I suppose there can be a nice momentary memory or future dream, but these are largely unsatisfying disembodied, escapes from the now. And if we cannot stay present during a moment of pristine peace, how will be able to stay present in our body when we are anxious or under stress or even in danger, where presence is needed most?
So I will leave you with three tips: One, stay as present as possible. notice your breath, feel your feet on the earth. Two, Release the main tool of the mind: obsession with time. Notice how you feel when you are worried about time. And finally, feel and face and move through and beyond the other main tool of the egoic mind: fear. There is truly nothing to fear or worry about, and even if there was, worry and fear only make it worse.