What stops us from being present is the fear of now. Why else would anyone not ‘be here now?’ Why are we so afraid of ‘now?’ What drives us away from home, from BEING with people, from BEING with the situations of life? The present moment is frightening – it’s scary; so much so we will do ANYTHING to not be present. But we have a dilemma: deep inside we know it’s home. We know it’s where peace, joy, and love is. So what do we do? We invent substitutes for Presence. We invent cigarettes to simulate the stillness and calming effect of breath. We drink alcohol to simulate the effect of being together, not thinking too much, we take ecstasy to simulate oneness, joy, even love. If all that’s a bit too obvious, we use TV, gossip and food instead or a mix of all of them or the internet or sex, romancing or any damn thing as long as it doesn’t involve being present. Just being ‘busy’ is a good one! What’s the problem then? Fear is the result, but what do we fear? God? Losing ‘our life’? Losing all the shiny things we have as substitutes for life? The unknown? What keeps us from what we all know deep inside? Instinctively we know. Not as second hand concepts or cheap words or stuff we learnt as a child – but deep down instinct – the same place known to birds, animals, even trees on another level. It’s not knowledge as we know it – it’s a wisdom not of words, not belonging to the world of ‘how to create more sophisticated substitutes for being present’. It’s the same source of ‘knowing’ that enables birds to fly in formation to another land thousands of miles away to warmer climbs. It’s the inner knowledge that enables elephants to remember where to go to die, enables bees to communicate where their food is and how far away it is, trees to know how high to grow to get the right amount of sunlight. Knowledge is not only the preserve of thinking. So why are we afraid to trust our inner ‘knowledge’? Because it’s not ‘ours’. We don’t ‘own’ it. We didn’t sweat over exams to get it, learn the hard way. We didn’t produce it and at the end of the day we want to be gods. ‘I did it myyyyyyyyyyyy wayyyyyyyyyy!’ (Eyes fill up with pride!). There’s nothing man’s ego (and yes, it’s usually the men that wanna be gods – and not just any gods, but top gods!) won’t do to keep up the pretence; even if it means dying for the cause. ANYTHING but being present. So don’t just think it’s simple, just get present to what is – it isn’t. Our whole psyche is geared up to finding ways to keep busy, to keep from being present. Thousands of years of unconsciousness had led to this moment where you are reading this!
No wonder it’s hard to just sit and be with the breath! No wonder we soon forget to be mindful and get easily distracted! Don’t beat yourself up about it – just recognise it. It’s not just irony that led Abel to bring a substitute to the alter – it was a deep inner knowledge – he knew the fruits of HIS labour were not enough – they all represented substitutes for being with ‘God’ – the fruits of the ego, attempts by man to be gods. So Cain killed Abel and has borne the mark ever since. We all bear the mark. That’s why is so hard to stay present. So be kind to yourself. Be gentle. Even a second of presence is OK. Becoming AWARE is everything. Abel was not innocent of trying to be like ‘god’ – the difference was he SENSED he was missing something fundamental, he was aware he wasn’t really a god – so God accepted his sacrifice as authentic. It was an admission of guilt and that was enough. What keeps us locked in suffering is not admitting we are trying to be gods and so we continue suffering!
Whenever there is negativity in you, if you can be aware at that moment that there is something in you that takes pleasure in it or believes it has a purpose, you are becoming aware of the ego directly. The moment this happens, your identity has shifted from ego to awareness. This means the ego is shrinking and awareness is growing.
There is a saying – “if you can’t think of anything nice to say about someone, then don’t say anything at all”. I wonder if there is some truth in that. All negativity can be traced back to the ego but how do you protect yourself from being taken advantage of? When someone is ‘out to destroy you’, is that often a construct of your own mind, a delusion? What about when you are the victim of crime or torture or you are the target of injustice at work or by the state? How do you deal with that? It’s all about context. Am I just being right or am I being like Mandela, standing in truth AND reconciliation? Let’s be real my friends but starting from a place of peace and stillness of the heart – not from the righteous indignation of the ego – we will know the difference.
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