If you’ve been on a path of self-exploration and personal growth, you’ve probably heard the popular spiritual saying “Be Here Now” which was introduced by the great Western-born yogi Ram Dass in 1971. Recently someone sent me an e-mail containing this humorous take-off on the phrase: “Be here now. Be someplace else later. Is that so complicated?”
Of course, the answer is: “No, it isn’t actually complicated, but it’s also not so easy.” In spite of the desire many of us share to live a mindful, conscious life and to experience our own personal version of everyday “nirvana”, (the sanskrit term for perfect peace and happiness) the truth is that more often than not, fully inhabiting the present moment without being haunted by the past or worrying about the future isn’t a simple task.
Why “Now” is Difficult
The first problem is the ‘now’ portion of ‘be here now’. Simply put, most of us aren’t so good at ‘now’. We live during a time and in a culture where we’re conditioned to want to do more, have more, and be more. We set goals for our relationships, our careers, our bodies, and our consciousness, intent on improving ourselves so that the efforts we make today will create more success and fulfillment for us tomorrow. Even the concept of wanting to be “better” can make us feel that somehow, we aren’t enough right now, and have to wait until an unnamed future time when we will finally be truly OK.
Nothing’s wrong with setting goals, but when we spend our lives focused on preparing for the future, we can easily slip into the habit of postponing happiness, and forget how to fully enjoy the present. We become experts at preparing to live, but often have a difficult fully enjoying the process of being alive right now, and being present with whatever is happening.
What about right this moment?
Are you fully here, in this moment, reading this sentence? Are you kind of reading but also anxious about something, or thinking about what you should eat for dinner, or wondering whether or not you should confront your partner about a conversation that upset you, or reading and texting at the same time? Most of us aren’t very good at giving all of our attention to whatever activity we’re involved in. We’re partially here, but also somewhere else. It’s no wonder, then, that experiencing joy and fulfillment in the ‘now’ is difficult when we spend so much time NOT being here now!
Even when we do succeed at bringing our attention fully into the present moment, we often miss simple joys, ordinary miracles, and everyday delights because we make the mistake of looking for something flashy that qualifies as a true spiritual experience. This is one of the most common ways I see people sabotage their happiness and peace of mind–believing that legitimate spiritual attainment must include continual experiences of outrageousness. The result is we can get so distracted by our search for the extraordinary that we don’t even recognize the sacred when we encounter it!
I‘ve had extraordinary peak experiences in my life. But if I had to pinpoint the occasions on which I felt my truest peace and my deepest contentment, they would not be those one-of-a-kind high occurrences. Instead, they would be simple moments of sweetness and delight, quiet moments of subtle miracles: Standing together with the person I love silently watching a sunset; lying in bed with my little dogs devotedly pressed up against me so I can feel the rhythm of their breathing; listening to Nature’s spectacular music of wind, or rain, or birds; the invigorating smell of the ocean; the sweet taste of the first fruits of summer; the feel of the warm sun on my skin.
This realization of what it actually means to “be here now” can be a life-changing soul shift for you: Everyday spirituality is not an escape from your usual life in search of some special, divine experience, but a surrender into the fullness of every experience. It isn’t about only focusing on practices that lead you away from your human existence to the spiritual, but rather learning how to lead yourself back into the ordinary and everyday, and find the exalted in it.
The Beauty of the “Mundane”
Each day that you are alive, you are being showered by an abundance of extraordinary gifts and priceless blessings. Anytime you forget this, talk to someone who has just a few days left to live. He or she will tell you that each day you are here is reason enough for rejoicing.
I’ve spent my life being a seeker, and teaching and guiding other seekers. But what, after all, are we seeking? What is your true destination on your human journey? It is nowhere but here, and no time but now. It is in this moment alone that you can find yourself and experience peace and delight. Why? because there’s never anything else but this moment, and then another ‘this’ moment.
The Sanskrit meaning of the word “Buddha” is ‘awakened.’ The Buddha was enlightened because he was fully awake. This is a new understanding of what it means to be wise—not to know, but simply to be aware; not to be certain, but to simply be awake right here, right now, with whatever is taking place.
Here’s the great news: To experience everyday Nirvana, everyday bliss, and everyday spirituality, you don’t have to be living a perfect life. You don’t have to be someone with no faults or issues. All you need to do is to pay attention to the abundance of everyday miracles all around you. They are everywhere, reminding you that you already have everything you need to feel blessed.