"Forever is composed of nows." ~Emily Dickinson
For a long time I believed that living in the moment meant doing what I wanted, when I wanted to. It has taken me many years to realize that I was wrong.
I felt the need to be free at an early age. I recall packing my bags to leave home at eight years of age. My poor parents had a hell of a time with me when I hit my adolescent years. And of course, the teen-age years were even worse. Basically, I didn’t like rules and regulations.
That desire for freedom and to live life in the moment saw some pretty reckless behavior - and in most cases, this behavior lead to self-destruction and misery. My wild side still comes out to play occasionally, I make that decision consciously, with full awareness of the consequences.
What I have come to realize is this: Living in the moment does not mean doing what you want, when you want. Doing what you want, when you want may give the illusion of freedom; but the fact is, the constant need to escape life’s normal daily circumstances is just another kind of captivity. It has been a long journey, but I have finally learned what it means for me to have that genuine freedom.
●Acceptance of What Is - It can be hard to accept life exactly as it is right now. You might want things to be different. This is particularly true if you have difficult circumstances. But resistance to life as it is means that any actions you take, or fail to take, are not based on reality. Acceptance of what is does not mean that you have to submit to it indefinitely. You can change your circumstances over time; however, it requires that you first accept where you are right now. When you accept where you are now, you are not fighting against what is. Fighting and resistance create more of what you don’t want — a losing battle against the constraints of reality. Acceptance means that you move into the flow of life.
●Discipline and Focus - This may sound contradictory. How can freedom require discipline and focus? Because, if it’s allowed to, the mind will take you away from the present moment. If the mind is not forced to focus, it will return to memories of the past, when circumstances may not have gone well. The mind will race ahead to the future, worried that things will not go well there, either. It operates on fear as a way of self-preservation. The need to escape the present moment is fear-based. Your past conditioning will determine your present fears. It could be a fear of failure, fear of commitment, fear of the unknown, fear of success. The list is endless. The only way to truly overcome fear is to come into the present moment and focus on the activity at hand. In all likelihood, there is nothing to fear in the immediate moment. So, although it may sound contradictory, it is not. Present moment awareness takes you beyond the fear of the mind. This is necessary for freedom.
●Knowing Yourself - Most people are uncomfortable being alone with themselves. They need other people and things to entertain them. If presented with situations and circumstances that require them to be alone, they usually put up great resistance. Stripping away the noise and distraction leaves these people with the responsibility of being who and what they are. Feelings of unease and unsettlement arise when they don’t like what they are forced to face — so they look for a way out. They might think this is genuine freedom, just as I did. It’s not. It just keeps you chained to the need to escape.
●Dedication to Your “Truth” - I put "truth" in quotation marks because what we generally think of as the truth is usually just our perception of people, events and situations. Identifying your truth requires that you know yourself well, and that you are not easily influenced by the views and opinions of those around you. Dedication to your truth requires you to have the courage and conviction to express and act on your own opinions. This is easier said than done and can take time to master. But you simply are not able to be fully present if you’re not dealing with your true feelings. If you are avoiding your truth, you are also missing the reality of the present moment because you are allowing others to define it for you. When you realize that this is not living your own life fully, you will be ready to embrace the truth of each moment.
●Love - Acceptance of what is, discipline and focus, knowing yourself and dedication to the truth create the space for you to LOVE. When you accept yourself and love life just as it is, the love flows over into everything that you do. The statement "It’s not what you do but how you do it" becomes very relevant. You realize that you have the ability to touch others in a deep and meaningful way. You create the space for others to reach the same levels of self-acceptance. You realize that there is no greater place to be than right here, right now.
Coming fully into the present moment — acknowledging my feelings and what I needed to do — was one of the most liberating feelings that I have ever encountered. Sometimes, it can take a great deal of pain and resistance before we come to this point. But these are breakthrough moments. Liberation and self-acceptance follow. To live in the moment is beautiful. It is genuine freedom. And every single one of us deserves to experience it.