November 28, 2017 Group Meditation Part 2 of 2
This talk happened Nov. 28, 2017 at the Boundless Love Project’s Group Meditation. Before listening to the talk, we suggest you listen to this guided body scan meditation, which preceded the talk.
Living in the Now Series Summary
“The present moment, if you think about it, is the only time there is. No matter what time it is, it is always now.” This quote is by contemporary spiritual teacher, Marianne Williamson.
If we take this observation of hers, and live by it, it radically transforms our lives for the better. One way to summarize the entire spiritual path is to say it is about living consistently in the present moment of the now.
This “Living in the Now” series helps us understand what it means to live in the now, and gives us tools and encouragement to do this. The more we live in the now, the less our ego causes us needless suffering, and the more we live skillful, peaceful, loving, joyful lives.
This talk is both an introduction to the series, and a summary and reminder of what we covered in this series of talks. I encourage people to listen to this talk both before listening to the series as well as afterwards.
In this talk I will give you an overview on why living in the now can take us to the final goal of being free from all of our psychological suffering. Moreover, I will share some of the key points from each of the talks in the series to prepare you for what is to come, and to remind you of what your true self already knows.
The ego confuses us and causes us to suffer
First, how does “living from the now” help us grow spiritually?
To live in the now, we must be mindful. To live in the now, we must be present in this moment. We must be aware of what is unfolding all around us and inside of ourselves. To live in the now, we must not be lost in thought, because then we become oblivious to the external and internal realities around us.
That is how the ego operates. It is constantly spins stories in our mind about the past or the future, or stories that are lost in fantastical dreaming. The ego thinks these stories will help you survive and thrive; will help you be prepared for the worst, and plan for any contingency. The ego thinks that spinning all of these stories will help you to get to the truth of what is going on.
Of course, the ego is the collection of delusions in us. Although the ego paints itself as the hero that is here to save you, in reality, it is actually the source of all of your unskillfulness, suffering, and misery.
This egoic delusion in us has created an entire edifice of stories that explains what the world is, what reality is, what truth is, what these things are not, and who and what we are. This gigantic and complex story of everything that the ego has created, has a consistency and universality to it that seem very real, grounded, and convincing. But there are a few problems with it: firstly, it is not true. Secondly, it causes us to suffer and behave in ways that harms ourselves and others.
The power of this egoic story is amplified by the fact that nearly every one of us are under its delusion. From tiny children, we have heard these egoic stories from our parents, relatives, friends, schools, entertainment, and media. This false, harmful view of reality is ingrained into us from day one, and throughout our life.
Living mindfully in the now is the way out of delusion
Given all of this, how can we possibly escape from this powerful, ever-present, yet harmful and deluded view of things? One way is to live rooted in the now. When we are mindfully grounded in the now, we become an observer, a scientist, and a researcher who questions all assumptions, makes observations, tests theories, and uncovers the truth directly in a felt and experiential manner, rather than with words and concepts which distort, divide, and delude.
When we live in the now, we become the watcher of our intentions, thoughts, emotions, sensations and habit patterns, as well as the witness of all external phenomena. This is what it means to “live in the now.” This is also what it means to “be present,” to “be mindful.”
One of the main stories egoic stories is that of the delusion of greed, “You will be happy when you get what you want.” When you live in the present moment, though, you question that assumption. Is it true? You mindfully notice how as you struggle and effort your way to get what you want, you suffer. You are dissatisfied with what you have. You are impatient to get what you want. You are upset and disappointed that you don’t have it yet. You start to notice how this story promises you joy in the future, but gives you suffering now.
Then you finally get what you wanted, and you notice there is some happiness. You feel good… for awhile… but you also notice that it doesn’t last. You notice that getting what you wanted is not actually as wonderful as you imagined it would be, and it often introduces more difficulties and challenges in your life. You also notice that once you got what you wanted, you immediately created new wants that you now needed to achieve in order to be happy. Once again, your happiness is postponed until a later date, justifying your willingness to suffer now for its attainment.
Living in the now, you start to see the insanity of living with this story that “you will be happy when you get what you want.” You see that it doesn’t work, and you become open to alternative ways of living. Mindfully, you start to notice whenever you are happy, peaceful, calm, and joyful. You notice how in those moments, that delusional story is not present in your mind. You also see how the story is a life: the fact that you find moments of happiness before you obtain “what you want” is evidence that you can be happy even when you don’t have it.
But the lifetime of conditioning you have had, means that story of wanting arises in your mind over and over in a variety of different manners for seemingly limitless numbers of things and situations. From your mindful observations, you know that when you act on a delusion, it causes you to act in ways that harms yourself and others.
Out of a strong and loving desire to be skillful, you are committed to mindfully watching your mind. When the delusional thoughts arise in you, you see them arise. You also recognize them as delusional. You see the lie in it, and don’t act on it, nor do you react to it. You simply watch it with compassion and acceptance, until it fades back into the nothingness from which it arose.
The more you mindfully see and recognize delusion as a delusion, the less and less power it has over you. The more you mindfully see delusion without reacting to it with more delusion -- such as hatred, anger, fear, or aversion -- the less you energize that delusion. As a result, the conditioned delusion arises less and less until eventually it stops arising at all. In this way, living in the now purifies your mind by helping you deactivate and remove the conditioned delusions that are there.
By deactivating and removing the delusion in your mind, your life naturally becomes more joyful, peaceful, and loving.
Use the “be here now” slogan throughout this series
The slogan to use during this series of talks is, “be here now.” Use this slogan throughout your day to remind yourself to be present, to check in with yourself by asking: where is the mind? What thoughts are arising? What feelings and sensations are arising? Am I calm, peaceful, relaxed, or enthusiastic? If not, how am I not living in the now? In what way am I thinking about the past or future and mistaking them to be more real than the present moment?
Use this slogan skillfully for the duration of listening to this series.
Next, I’ll attempt to summarize the key points of each of the talks in this series. My intention is that this will motivate you to listen to the talk, or remind you of what you have already heard. It’s a lot of information, so if this is your first time listening, don’t worry about forgetting it. Whatever you need to remember from the talk, you will remember.
Living in the now: All forms are impermanent and impersonal
In the talk “Living in the Now: All Forms are Impersonal and Impermanent,” we share information that will prepare you to be mindful in a way that is free of suffering.
As you mindfully live in the now, you want to notice that all aspects of reality operate under two laws:
1. The first is that everything is impermanent, dynamic, and changing. The ego gives us a variety of reasons why it is all right for us to be hurt, upset, fearful, and scared of change. When we mindfully see that change is a fundamental law of all parts of life, we also see how unskillful it is to resist change. We see how resisting change causes needless suffering. We notice the thoughts that cause us to suffer when change happens, and we start to see the delusion in them. By deactivating those delusions, by mindfully seeing the falsehood in them, we end the needless suffering and learn how to live in a changing, dynamic world with peace, ease, and skillfulness.
2. The second fundamental law is that all forms are impersonal, which means that absolutely nothing should be taken personally. Everything from the way clouds form and trees grow, to the arising of thoughts, emotions and sensations in ourselves as well as in other people, are simply nature unfolding lawfully according to various causes and conditions. There is no need to take it personally and feel offended when water runs downhill. In the same way, there is no need to take it personally of feel offended when someone insults you, or you get ill, or when an unskillful thought arises in your mind. All of that arises due to do causes and conditions that are outside of your control.
There is no need to be reactive or take offense to any of it. The ego will provide you with thousands of “reasons” and justifications for why you “should” feel upset, take offense, and be hurt by these things. When you believe these delusions, they will cause you to needlessly suffer. Through mindfulness, you see how these stories cause suffering, you can see how everything is impersonal, and you can deactivate the delusion and stop your needless suffering.
Seeing the impersonal nature of everything allows a great amount of love and compassion to arise for yourself and others. When unskillful thoughts and behaviors arise in yourself and others, you can see them as egoic conditioning, the false self, the delusion operating in yourself and them. You don’t mistake this conditioning to be who you, or they, are. Instead, you recognize your and their desire to be happy, peaceful, and safe; you recognize your and their worth and value; and you respond to your or their unskillfulness with love and compassion.
As we do this mindfully, we see how much more wonderful it makes our lives and the lives of those around us, and we get more and more passionate about living mindfully from a place of love and compassion.
Relax and release: Letting go of the past
In the talk, “Relax and release: Letting go of the past,” we explain the delusion of past-ing. This delusion is defined by mistaking your thoughts about the past to be more real and powerful than the present moment. When you are under the spell of past-ing, you will feel feelings of grief, regret, resentment, anger, hopelessness, sadness, fear, and anxiety, or longing for “the good old days.”
Past-ing causes suffering by having us re-experience traumatic events; by creating limiting and false beliefs about what we cannot do, tolerate, understand, or achieve; and by causing us constant dissatisfaction with the present moment because it is not as it used to be.
Past-ing is one of the delusions we need to be mindful of. If it arises, we see it as false and a lie. We remember that the now is all there is and let go of the past. The past is gone. It cannot hurt us, define us, or control us anymore.
Skillfully relating to the future: Letting go of fear
In the talk, “Skillfully relating the to future: Letting go of fear,” we define the delusion of futuring. Futuring is mistaking our thoughts about the future to be more real than the present moment.
There are two main ways that futuring causes suffering: First, we can imagine a negative future. When we do this without mindfulness, and clarity that “this is only a thought,” our mind mistakes this vision to be the truth. As a result, fear, anxiety, stress, grief, apathy, burnout, sadness, depression, and other disturbing emotional or mental states arise.
The second major way that futuring causes suffering, is when we imaging a positive or wonderful future and believe that this version of the future is necessary for us to be happy, or use it as a yard-stick to judge our current situation. This results in the arising of many unpleasant emotional and mental states including: dissatisfaction, disappointment, greed, lust, desire, envy, jealousy, fear, anxiety, frustration, and more. To summarize, future goals, when seen as necessary for our happiness, cause perpetual discontent.
Remember, the only time we can be peaceful, content, relaxed, and joyful is now, because the now is all that exists. If we are not peaceful and joyful now, then we are not peaceful and joyful. We can’t trade stress, fear, and greediness now, for happiness in the future. If we are stressed, fearful, and greedy now, then we are practicing how to be stressed, fearful, and greedy in the future. Whereas if we are calm, peaceful, and joyful now, we are practicing how to be calm, peaceful, and joyful in the future.
How can we be calm, peaceful, and joyful now? By remembering these beautiful states are always with us; they are our natural state of being when the mind is free from active delusions. How do we deactivate delusions in the mind? By being mindfully aware of them and seeing them as delusion. Thus, being present, being mindful, once again leads us out of our suffering.
Effortless effort and the state of flow
In the talk, “Effortless effort and the state of flow,” you learn the secret to doing everything with a sense of peace, joy, or enthusiasm. Whether you are washing dishes, interacting with friends, or doing data entry at work, the key to loving what you do is this:
First, get clear on how what you are doing is an act of love. Be mindful of who or what you are serving by doing what you are doing. If, after making an exhaustive search, you discover that no one is served by what you are doing, then stop doing it. Otherwise, be mindful that what you are doing is an act of love.
Secondly, while doing your best, let go of the ultimate results. All obsessing about how the work turns out is the delusion of futuring. It will create stress, fear, impatience, and frustration. It will distract you from doing your best work in the present moment. Be mindful when futuring is active, and how it causes you to suffer. Then notice those times when futuring is not active and how peaceful, calm, effortless and joyful the work becomes. Being mindful of these “bright spots” will help your mind and body remember these states and help you get back to them more easily in the future.
By having your intentions come from love, and by letting go of the results of your action, all of your behaviors help you get in touch with the peace, joy, and enthusiasm that are manifestations of your deepest, truest, self.
Being mindful and skillful with physical pain part 1 and 2
In the two talks, “Being mindful and skillful with physical pain,” we will answer the questions, “but what if right now I am in a lot of physical pain? Why would I want to be mindful in that situation?”
In these talks we cover 16 different ways that your mindfulness practice can help you relieve physical pain. Some of these strategies are quite simple and easy to implement, such as substituting the word “sensations” for “pain,” when you talk or think about your situation. Others take some practice and training to benefit from. The most important way strategy is to start differentiating between what is physical pain, and what is the needless psychological suffering that our ego adds on top of it.
In this talk we explain this idea by introducing you to the dart analogy. Imagine that our pain, illness, or injury is represented by a dart that has hit us. If we mindfully and non-reactively accept that we are hit by a dart, we can skillfully remove the dart, wash the wound, and bandage it up to aid the healing. No fuss. No drama. Simple and easy.
However, the ego in us respond to being hit by the dart with a lot of aversion, greed, futuring, past-ing, and other delusions that actually amplifies and prolongs our physical pain while creating additional psychological suffering. These egoic reactions are as if we take the dart that is stuck in us, pull it out and then repeatedly stab ourselves with the dart. This egoic infliction of pain is all unnecessary, overly dramatic, and the source of most of the suffering we endure when we are sick or injured.
With mindfulness we can start to tease out, what are the actual physical sensations of pain we are feeling, and what are the egoic reactions that are causing additional mental and physical suffering. When you see these delusional reactions as delusions, you can let them go and remove a lot of unnecessary suffering. As you remove layer after layer of delusion, you may find that the vast majority of the suffering you endure from your sickness and injury is actually psychologically based, and therefore optional.
Nature keeps us mindful in the now
In the talk, “Nature keeps us mindful in the now,” we talked about how wildlife, trees, rivers, clouds and other parts of nature are still living in alignment with life’s purpose. They still are in synch with the cycles of love and generosity that run the universe, and allow all beings to live and thrive. They also still connected to the fact that we are all one.
Unfortunately, humanity is lost in delusion and out of synch with these truths. The ego in us perceives a dog-eat-dog-world of scarcity, hierarchy, competition, and division. As a result we harm each other, other species, and even the earth on which our lives depend.
Thankfully, when we spend time in nature, we can resonate with the peace and joy that is alive in nature. When we mindfully observe and study nature, we can see what it is like to be non-reactive, to live in the now, to let go of the past, to not worry about the future. When we love and appreciate all that nature provides for us, and our families, we start to see the unity of all life, and how we are all one. That is why spending time in nature, mindfully observing nature, and appreciating nature helps us live in the now.
My intentions with this talk
If this is your introduction to the “Living in the now” series of talks, my intention is that this talk sparks your interest, curiosity, and motivation to listen to the rest of the talks in the series. I hope it also introduces you to some important ideas so that the next time you hear them, you are more familiar with them.
If this is your summary review of the talks, my intention is that this talk helps remind you of what you already know. My hope is that this review sinks the information deeper into your awareness, so that you remember to use these ideas, skills, and techniques in your daily life so you may be free from suffering and live with abundant love, peace, compassion, and joy.
I end with a quote from one of our modern day sages, Oprah Winfrey: “Living in the moment means letting go of the past and not waiting for the future. It means living your life consciously, aware that each moment you breath is a gift.”
Your Mindfulness Invitation to "Go Deeper"
Look over and choose one of the following phenomena to be mindful of for the next week. Let the slogan “be here now” remind you to be mindful of your choice. For more detailed how-to info, feel free to follow the links and listen to the related talk(s) which are listed in parenthesis at the end of each activity.
1. Mindfully notice the impermanent nature of all forms. Notice how everything changes. Does seeing these laws of nature allow you to feel more accepting and less reactive to the inevitable changes in life? (Living in the Now: All Forms are Impersonal and Impermanent)
2. Mindfully notice the impersonal nature of all forms: be they visible or invisible, external or internal. Notice how they all lawfully unfold due to causes and conditions outside of your control. Does seeing this allow you to: take things less personally? suffer less from inconveniences, slights, and the unskillfulness of yourself and others? be more calm and less reactive? Be more understanding and forgiving? (Living in the Now: All Forms are Impersonal and Impermanent)
3. Notice when the delusion of futuring and past-ing arise. Be mindful of when one is active, and causes suffering, and when it is deactivated by your mindful awareness of it, and how that lessens or eliminates the suffering. Experience the difference. (Relax and release: Letting go of the past & Skillfully relating the to future: Letting go of fear)
4. Be mindful of your loving intentions behind all that you do. To do this, reflect on how what you are doing serves yourself and others. Then do whatever you are doing with great skill and mindfulness in the present moment while letting go of the results. How does this feel? Can you do the activity with peace, joy, or enthusiasm? Notice when what you are doing causes stress, fear, or anxiety to arise, and look to see in what way your mind is lost in the future or past, or operating on unloving intentions. (Effortless effort and the state of flow)
5. When pain, illness, or injury arises, mindfully look for any and all reactivity in yourself. See how when you believe this delusional reactivity, it causes more suffering, and when you see it as a lie, the suffering lessens or goes away. (Being mindful and skillful with physical pain part I and part II)
6. Spend time quietly in nature. Try to feel the peace and serenity of nature. Observe how nature is non-reactive, accepting, and free of drama. Learn from its good examples. Appreciate all that nature provides for you: clean air, clean water, food, clothing, shelter, and so on. Be mindful of how these activities make you feel. (Nature keeps us mindful in the now)
May love and wisdom protect you always.