How do you live in the present?

meditandoando ‏@meditandoando: how to only think in the present when you also need to know the future. You need money and food to survive.


Then the IRS wrote me wanting to know a lot of information about me. Then my dad got sick. Then my father in law got sick. Then I wasn’t getting along with my now ex-wife and we got divorced. Then a lot of people got angry at me for reasons I don’t even know why. Then I was living in a hotel, by myself on Thanksgiving. Then I was crazy and almost went to jail. A step-ladder of thens until I got HERE, the present moment, but for a long time I didn’t know it was the present moment. I thought it was THEN. Or SOON. And SOON was unavoidably bad.

This has been a hard year. Everyone wants to break free from it. Heck, it’s been a hard decade. As the year closed, by far the most popular search term that got people to my blog was “I Want to Die” by a much wider margin than it usually is. Nobody wants to see 2013 and what disasters it brings. 2012 was enough. Waking up to tragedy after tragedy. Wars that don’t seem to end. An economy that won’t seem to get off the respirator.

My kids said to me the other day, “When are we going to get out of this recession” I said, the US hasn’t been in a recession since 2009 and the stock market is near decade highs.” But they won’t believe me. “That’s impossible,” they said. Because life feels really bad now. Little kids get shot just a few miles away. That means it can happen to anyone. And everyone is either unemployed or underemployed. Or worried about being shot or underemployed.

Anything can happen. And nobody is entitled to anything. In my worst fears over the past few decade I would just stare at a paper trying to add up numbers over and over again. Do they add up? What if the IRS calls here? What if this deal falls through? What if I never do anything anywhere of value to anyone? Then that number goes away. All of this complicated mathematics would happen at three in the morning, the time when math happens in our nightmares. I would wake up and see paper after paper on the table and none of the numbers would add up in the morning. What was I even thinking?

And the self-help books give platitudes that don’t make sense. It’s one thing to be Eckhart Tolle, who lived on a park bench, and say, “Live only in the Present”. It’s one thing to be Tony Robbins and force yourself to stand straight and be confident. It’s another thing to think to yourself: in exactly seven months I will run out of money and I can’t get a job and I will not be able to feed my kids. “Live life like you might die tomorrow!” says a bumper sticker, facebook quote, pinterest photo.

But it doesn’t work. I have to work tomorrow. I have to buy a diaper tomorrow or Eggos or fill up a car with gas. My gas runs out tomorrow.

Well, why can’t you get a job? Because, one might think… all the jobs are gone. Or…I lost the last two jobs. Or…I had money once before and I messed it up. I was STUPID and I HATE MYSELF. Or…I am too old. Or…I am not pretty or handsome or charismatic enough. Or…Or…. Or….: excuses, fears, regrets, anxieties and I open a book and it says, “live in the NOW”. But what if “NOW” sucks. What if it’s really really awful.

And yet, every spiritual book in history, every self-help guide, says the same thing. Focus on the NOW. How come?

Because this is where all the help is. This present moment is where all the money is. It’s where all the opportunity is. It’s hidden from us, because we have an ongoing film in our heads of everything we regret, everything we’re afraid of, everybody we want to get pleasure from, everyone we are sure is betraying us, everyone we are angry at, everything we are afraid of. It’s the Zapgruder film of the JFK shooting, playing over and over, was that three bullets or one? Was his head splattered on Jackie’s dress? Was there another gun right there in the grassy knoll? Play it again? Do it slide by slide! We can find something here. Play it again. Play it again. Play it again. In the shower. Daydreaming of disaster. Can I kill myself? Can I shoot myself in the now?

The present moment is all we have. It’s not, “do nothing in the present moment”. It’s live in the only moment we will ever have. Wherever we are, whenever we are, we are always NOW. Unless I’m afraid to repeat my pattern of ten years ago. Unless I’m afraid of what happens six months from now. Unless I’m afraid of a knock at the door, unknown people taking from me on the other side.

There’s the metaphor of Jesus walking on water. (Uh-oh. Here the Jew goes again). The miracle is not that he walked on water. The miracle is always when we don’t drown in our fears and regrets. Those are the only things that prevent us from walking above the water.

What happens then? You start to think of the ideas that will deliver the most value to others. You start to make decisions that benefit you the most right now. You start to clear your head of the shitmares that stink up the system inside of you, the universal moment of NOW that only you exist in. You surrender to what you have in the present moment.

In 2004 the IRS wrote me. They wanted to know what had happened to me 1997-2003. They wanted an update on my life. How have I been? What have I been up to? And, by the way, how much money did you make? I was near broke. But I had made a lot of money and then lost it. I wanted to live in the NOW but the IRS was asking me about 1998, the year I sold my company! 2002, the year I sold a house. And soon 2004 would come up, the year I sold another company But show me the money?

I added it all up. I was worth negative million. Or negative two million. Or maybe even an imaginary number. Somewhere where numbers don’t exist for respectable people. I was beyond respectable. I was a piece of shit. I was afraid. “Nothing will ever get good for me again.”

The only time you can stack the odds in your favor is right now. Here is a right-now-checklist: Are you breathing? Are you eating well? Did you sleep enough last night? Did you exercise? Did you avoid the people who put you down or stress you out? Did you come up with ideas? Did you laugh? Are you grateful for what you have? Can you surrender to the universe, to the angels that anchor you to your fears, just for a moment, and say, “Who today do you want me to help?”

And only by being focused on that checklist, will you ride fearlessly into the future. I know this because here I am in the future, right now.