What happens when you begin to focus on the present moment? What happens when for a brief moment you start to pay attention to what is going on around you? When you dare to just be?
Reading Anthony De Mello’s Awareness I came across an interesting idea. Mello writes: “You know, all mystics – Catholic, Christian, non-Christian, no matter what their theology, no matter what their religion – are unanimous on one thing: that all is well, all is well. Though everything is a mess, all is well. Strange paradox to be sure.”
This spoke to me on a deep level. It put into words what I experience when for a brief moment I cease to be distracted when for a brief moment I pay attention to all that arises in my mind when for a moment I just am.
I pierce above the cloud of distraction and realize that all is well.
Why is all well?
In an undistracted moment, when I just am, existence manifests as a gift. The ability to breathe, to feel cold air fill my lungs and beat against my cheeks, the warm kiss of the sun on my skin, the song of nature, but also the presence of a loved one, the taste of good food after fasting for a day, and even further, the vastness and complexity of the universe, all the knowledge past generations were able to accumulate and that is yet to be discovered. We, a speck of dust on a lonely, tiny planet, are able to contemplate the meaning of it all.
I smile, I can’t resist. The beauty is overwhelming. It takes me by hand into a dance to the music of life, I smile even more, tilt my head back, dance, spin, raise my hands, laugh, consumed in the complexity and absurdity of it all.
I forget about money, I forget about property, I forget about success, I just am. I laugh more, with my head clear, finally free from distractions, full of love for existence, full of hope for what is to come, without clinging to the future. All is well. All is well!
I realize this state of being is much more easily accessible to me because of how free from suffering my life is. I am in this privileged position because millions of people have struggled and died in hope of a better future. I live an undisturbed life thanks to all the sacrifices my parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and all the generations before have made. I am well aware of that. I know that I am lucky.
I want to pay my utmost appreciation to you, the ones who came before me, and the ones who stand by me, you who went through all the anxiety and struggle, often because your bare life depended on it, or you hoped to provide for us, the ones who are at the frontier of human history. I hope to do the same for the next generation, so they can also enjoy the gift of existence.
I ask you to consider it as well, aren’t you as privileged as I am? Some of us had rockier paths, more complicated upbringing, access to less resources, less opportunities, but at the end of the day, if you are reading this, you are here because of all that came before, you enjoy the same gift of existence as a member of an indigenous tribe in Namibia, who will probably never experience the wonders of the modern society, maybe to their benefit. Regardless of our backgrounds, regardless of how much weight we carry on our shoulders, the beauty of existence is available to us all.
As I said, I want to give the gift of existence to the next generation and make it as pleasant as I can, yet I ask, do I have to attach myself to the anxiety and struggle that certainly awaits me? Is it not possible to find solace, to find joy, even in the darker times of life? Learning to be creates that option.
We can punctuate our life with times of complete being, where we get a glimpse of what the human condition could be like in the best utopian fantasies that accompanied many thinkers of the past.
I want to punctuate my life with heaven on Earth, those brief moments of clarity, I want to see life for what it truly is, a non-judgmental swirl of beauty and ugliness, joy and pain, ease and struggle, but also of freedom, hope, magnificence, profundity, and mystery. All this is available when we begin to pay attention, when distractions fade off.
These moments are all that we have – they won’t last, but they can be fully embraced.
Being is a moment of freedom, freedom from all the bullshit we tell ourselves. Most of what is stopping us from being content in the present moment, from being happy right now, is a bunch of lies, confusions, regrets, anxieties, distractions. Everything that we need we already have, we have our minds, we have our bodies, battered by chance, our irresponsibility or just the passage of time to greater or lesser extent, we breathe, we are alive, most likely we have some that we love and that love us, and although our lives are not perfect, that is all that we need. We can throw off the old garment, let the weight fall to the ground, enjoy existence as it is, the lightness of being.
But Andrej, that’s not how civilizations have been build, that’s not how we built computers, rockets, ships, cars, skyscrapers, bridges, robots, satellites, the Internet, that’s not how we cured diseases, discovered the underlying laws of nature, that’s not how we progressed as a human civilization.
That’s again, for the most part, a bunch of B.S. The freedom the present moment offers is both freedom from (from suffering), and also freedom to, (as inspiration comes) to create, to improve, to help others rise from their struggles, it is a freedom to explore, to be curious, about the wonders of our bodies, our communities, of our planet, and the universe we find ourselves at the mercy of.
Both from my experience and from knowledge of the history behind our greatest thinkers, artist, and innovators, it is the wonder, curiosity, the desire to know, to see, to express, to feel, to master, to understand, that propels people to creative action, from Plato to Da Vinci, from Thoreau to Einstein, from Gandhi to Feynman, from Turing to Musk.
In the present moment, we rinse away all the cultural vomit thrown at us, all the “you have to”s, to be rich, famous, wear this, drive that, live there, know them, have that, it is suddenly all gone. And after we finish the ecstatic dance of the present moment, wonder, curiosity, contentment, freedom, and purpose remain, long enough for us to take the next step towards creation.
Then we can do all that we want to do, but now authentically. Will there be less production? Maybe. Less consumption? Possibly. Will we be worse off? I doubt it.
And that’s why I fell in love with the present moment. I fell in love with what I have seen, with what I experienced, I fell in love with the absurdity of the human condition – of our smallness and perceived significance. I fell in love with life, where a possibly cosmic accident can contemplate himself, and all that is around him, puzzled, perplexed, yet full of desire to know, to see, to feel, to share, to capture that glimpse of profundity.
All is well.
Will you join me in the dance?