We’re all so obsessed with the now. Just a shame it’s the wrong now. Twenty-four-hour news cycles. Real-time messaging. Social media streams in the palms of our hands endlessly spewing the latest thing we have to know about. This is the stuff of the wrong now.
The wrong now is the one that makes us wish we were somewhere else. Makes us feel that there is always just one more thing that we need before we’ll be truly happy. One more conversation that we have to be involved with. One more snippet of gossip from our friends that we have to know. The wrong now is the now of elsewhere. Giving into the wrong now creates a fear of missing out. When we place more importance on what we could be doing rather than what we actually are doing, then what comes up is restlessness and dissatisfaction. By buying into the idea that life would be so much better if we were just doing something else, we place ourselves on a hamster wheel that spends all of our energy and never actually gets us anywhere.
Wanting to be in another now is a game we can never win. It is always possible to imagine an experience that is better than this one here. Wouldn’t you be having so much more fun if you were playing the next level of your favourite game or checking into Facebook to see yet more puppy photos rather than reading this book? What if there’s a massive news story that has just broken that you don’t know about yet? What if you’ve got some messages waiting in your online dating inbox from the person who ends up being the love of your life? Can you feel it? Can you feel the pull? That’s what the wrong now feels like.
The right now is this one. It is what is happening in your experience as you read this sentence. It is how your back feels right now. It is the tiredness you can feel around your eyes. It is the thoughts that are coming up as you read. It is what some people call the present moment. It is a magical thing. Think about a time in the last few months when you have felt most alive. Most likely that will have been when playing with a child, out in nature, listening to music, having sex, watching a sunset, playing sport or at a concert or event.
What connects all these types of activity is that when we’re in them, their immediacy and energy mean that at no point do we want to be elsewhere. There is no wrong now,only the right now. Only direct unmediated experience. The simple knowing of what is happening. Hanging out in the right now is what we mean by being present. And it is a real skill. Not all parts of our lives are as overwhelmingly engrossing as when our favourite band is playing our favourite song on the main stage at the Glastonbury Festival. It is no wonder that we get seduced into another now. And just being somewhere physically is certainly no guarantee of presence. We have all been in situations where our bodies happen to be there but our minds are anywhere but. Therefore presence is the coming together of the two. Body. Mind. Here. Now.
I used to wonder why this present moment thing was such a big deal. But getting into meditation helped me realise that it was the key to everything. When there is presence we are less likely to become distracted. When there is presence we become more literate in our feelings and patterns.When there is presence the ordinary has the chance to become beautiful. Life puts on the best parties. Being present allows us to actually turn up.