Opening your Heart to the Present

On an average day the mind spends so much time wandering off into the past or the future. The more we’re worried about things, the more we resist what ‘is’ and the more dislocated we become from the present moment and all that lies around us. I’ve often struggled with this when I’m in between projects. After a little break I become impatient when faced the uncertainty around the question ‘what next?’ Part of this is a deep desire to be deeply involved in what I’m doing, but another part is my discomfort with the condition of the present moment. I remind myself of Buddhist observations about how we oscillate  between attachment and avoidance. This is something that I’ve been working on for a long time, albeit sporadically, twenty years at least. Amidst the mental clutter of  daily life it’s all too easy to lose sight of these quirks of the mind.

There are plenty of challenges that I relish, that I seek out – in fact I’m looking for the next one now. But then there are the ones that life throws at us, whether we think we’re ready or not. It might be a death, or illness, or some major disturbance in your work, or the loss of work, or any number of unplanned events that in ordinary circumstances we wouldn’t actually choose. In my experience, these are the hardest but they also provide the most extraordinarily powerful opportunities for growth when we can treat them as such – when we can become aware and learn during the event rather than just with hindsight.

The shift occurs when we stop fighting the moment, when we let go of our refusal to accept the present situation. When I say accept, I don’t mean capitulate or resign to it, not all, simply accept it as it is. If it’s painful accept that. If it scares us accept that, acknowledge it. I believe this is necessary in order to begin to move through it. After all how can we work with or change our conditions if we refuse to even accept that they are real.

Even more than this, this acceptance creates an opportunity to open up the heart after our refusal has shut its doors. I write quite a bit about cultivating gratitude at this time as well, even and especially for life’s major tests. And in a way, gratitude and this opening of the heart come together. With the opening of the heart we can bring an attitude of love and healing to the moment and those elements we’ve been fighting against within ourselves and even with others. When this happens it always feels right – it feels like the natural state – and I believe it feels this way for a simple reason – it is the natural state. It’s like riding an ocean wave rather than trying to stop it. After all, it takes a lot of energy to hold ourselves in a state of resistance, defence, or fight. Just as it works in the physical body, letting go of this tension has the effect of releasing energy and making it available for the real job at hand – to create, to love, to live

– not yesterday,

– not tomorrow,

– but today.

– NOW.

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6 thoughts on “Opening your Heart to the Present

  1. A very true and honest Post with clear examples Doctor – I think for me that is.
    With my respect towards you – but after I read this Post, I put a question to myself.
    You wrote – “And in a way, gratitude and this opening of the heart come together”.
    What is feeling gratitude – is your experience of feeling gratitude the same as my experience of feeling gratitude or that of my neighbor ?
    As every individual has its own world of perceiving, I wonder if even in Social Perception or Interpersonal Perception – we share the same (collective) feeling of gratitude.
    In our journey to self-discovery we often are dealing with subtle thing – that’s why I wrote this question down – that I hope you will be so kind to answer.

    • Thankyou for your thoughtful comments. I certainly agree that we have our own ways of perceiving and then of expressing that which we experience. The journey is does involve the experience of many subtleties. In my experience, this usually means that if we have had a similar experience, then the particular words don’t actually matter so much, though they can mislead. In this case I was just putting into words that make sense to me the combination of feelings and attitudes that I had experienced. This was a mixture of love and a deep sense of thanks for what is, for the moment and all aspects of it – beyond good or bad, liking or disliking – a complete acceptance if you like. It is, I admit a personal way of expressing this, but it is so common for me now that I have almost ceased to recognise it as such, so, sincerely, thankyou.
      I am curious to know what gratitude feels like for you?

      • The “word” gratitude for answering my question is on me dear Doctor.
        I now know exactly what you mean – and realize that perhaps somebody else will not have the slightest notion of what we are talking about.

        Yes, I can imagine that some (special)experiences can become so common that they are not be recognized as Special anymore.
        To answer your question :
        The awareness of what I see is what I get (receive in return because of my projection).
        When the projection is not experienced as “own” it is hostile and dangerous and instinctively (survival of the species) I build an armor to protect.
        However, when at that moment I can become aware that the other person and myself share the same – indeed (as you wrote) by “accepting” this as part of my own – my hostility vanishes.
        And with that, I experience, what you described as the feeling of “gratitude and opening of the heart”, and I describe this feeling as “gratitude and Peace in my heart”.
        Different words, for the same overwhelming experience or process – of the feeling of Oneness.
        And I think that the experiences of Oneness are to be compared as the cool waterholes during our journey in the barren desert – and they make it possible for us to continue our journey.

        I agree with you that the circumstances that we are confronted with in our daily life makes it hard to act on our act to become conscious at the present moment.
        On very rare occasions I am able to do so, but as the “present” is “past” in a flick of a second – I am always working with things of the past.
        But even in this cripple way, because of being conscious, I sometimes are able to work on the things that “might” happen in the future – let things happen in the future as they happen, and when things happen, I carry on from that point – eliminate the “what if”.

        As you have noticed that English is not my native language – nevertheless, I hope that I answered your question to your satisfaction.

      • Dear Opa,
        This distinction between Other and hostility vs recognition of unity is a good way of expressing this. Indeed, if you haven’t read it recently can I recommend reading the final book of the Iliad, the meeting between Achilles and Priam. You’ll see this exactly. Oneness is a good way of encapsulating this but I particularly like your simile. Indeed, in the these moments are sweet relief from the illusions and ever-so harsh unrealities that our minds create both in our solitary and communal experience which are far more ready to perpetuate our hunger and dissatisfaction with the now. I look forward to more conversations like this with you. Your English is great and has only the most minor problems.

  2. Dear Doctor,
    Thank you for your response and your lead towards the Iliad – I am really amazed that you are so lectured to find a needle in the haystack – talking about similes !
    I presume that you mean the strove “Priam begs Achilles to pity him, saying “I have endured what no one on earth has ever done before — I put my lips to the hands of the man who killed my son”.

    As a kid I was interested in the stories of the Bible – about 55 years ago I became fascinated by the Greek Mythology and I discovered (for myself) the mutual symbolic events, also available in Fairy Tales, Astrology, the Bhagawad Gita and so on.
    But in fact it was the Greek Mythology that made me aware of “something” in my Soul that made me want to discover/learn more about myself.

    And when I discovered the studies of Carl Gustav Jung – everything seems to fall in place.

    As I am new on your block, I have read some of your Post and learned that you already have “earned” a share in your life – next is the fact that you are so young – and in this short period you were able to gather knowledge and wisdom of which some people will do a lifetime – I am really puzzled !
    Furthermore you are able to produce not only spiritual Post but also Post on what I call common things.

    I also enjoyed our conversation – in Queensland I use to say, Ta Da mate and the response would be, To the Loo – smile !

  3. Dear Doctor,
    As I read more of your Post, I now understand your knowledge of the Iliad, because your Doctoral Thesis was build with it.
    As you offered in your Post I will read your Doctoral Thesis, and I am sure I will enjoy it.

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