“If you’re living in the present, you’re living in acceptance of what is, realizing that everything is complete as it is. By living in the present, you have the power to change your life.”
I seemed to have fallen into a routine when I went to sleep at night. I would go to bed around 10 or 11 pm because I was usually exhausted by then, and I would fall asleep fairly easily. I would wake up about two hours later because nature called (sorry for “too much information”!). Since I use my phone as my alarm, it would be next to me in my bed, which I know is not a good thing since it emits radiation that messes with our sleep cycles. Nonetheless, it would lie there with me in its own “snooze” mode, since I would mute its sound so, other than the alarm, it wouldn’t wake me up when emails came through or I received messages from someone on Facebook or a text message or whatever.
The problem was that if I was awakened by nature, which usually happened more than once (sorry for TMI again!), I would check my phone once I crawled back into bed to see if I had received any sort of messages, and I’d even respond if I felt compelled to (I know that’s crazy, but that’s the way I am). And then, of course, I would be wide awake and my monkey mind would start chattering away, thinking of all I had to do for my crowd-funding project and my book launch, and then I would start to panic over whether I would be able to get it all done. Oh, woe is me! Wasn’t night time when I was supposed to be getting my rest, so I could wake up refreshed in the morning for another day? But no, the mind chatter would continue, thinking about this and thinking about that. How could I shut it off? Of course, the more I tried with all my might to turn off my mind, the worse it would get. It’s true that the thing you fear most will come upon you and overtake you.
Then I would think about Eckhart Tolle’s book The Power of Now, and how one finds inner peace when living in the present moment – not in the past, not in the future, but in the “now.” “As long as you are in a state of intense presence, you are free of thought.” [i] So to help quiet my mind, I would lie on my side, putting my hands on either side of my head, and administer Reiki to myself. If you don’t know what Reiki is, it’s a Japanese technique of stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by “laying on hands,” allowing the “life force energy” to pass through to where the energy is needed to revitalize and heal. I’ve been a Reiki master for about seven years now and love the benefits of the energy work. Each night I put my hands on my heart (my heart chakra) and my stomach (my solar plexus chakra) before falling asleep, to give myself a brief Reiki treatment. I used to have anxieties, as I talked about previously, which would make my heart flutter; and my stomach is where most of my anxieties would settle, causing digestive disturbances (TMI, I know!). Regularly giving myself Reiki, focusing on those two points, helped keep the anxieties at bay.
Well, as I was giving my head Reiki, which subdued the mental chatter, I was able to keep my mind free of thought and take myself out of my chaotic mental voyage, into the future and back to the present land of slumber, back to my dark bedroom, cozy under the covers. I would be transported back into the dream world of the night where I belonged. I was at peace and knew that all was as it should be, that I didn’t have to worry about all that needed to be done. I was guided by Spirit, knowing I would not be led astray, that things would take their course without me having to worry about them.
We live in an age of distraction. We let the present slip away as we ruminate on our past or worry about the future. The world in which we live creates “mental fragmentation, disintegration, distraction and decoherence,” as Buddhist scholar B. Alan Wallace puts it.
But life unfolds in the present. When you become more mindful of the present, you become an observer of your thoughts instead of “being” your thoughts. By just being with your thoughts, neither grasping at them nor pushing them away, you awaken to life’s possibilities. No longer do you let your thoughts control you. No longer are you letting your life go by without living it each and every moment.
Get away from the “egoic mode of consciousness: identified with [your] mind and run by [your] mind”[ii] As long as the egoic mind (or monkey mind, as I call it) runs your life, you cannot be truly at ease or at peace or fulfilled, since the ego identifies with external things and needs to be fed constantly.
When you seek yourself in the mind and mistake it for who you are, (e.g. when you’re lost in thoughts about your life situation), you allow the egoic mind to create your reality. But it’s a false reality based on fear: a fear that maybe your circumstances will never get better, a fear grounded in the future. The egoic mind cannot survive without strife and conflict. What you need to do to get out of this egoic state of consciousness is to reclaim consciousness from your mind and direct it to your “inner body,” which connects you to the source of all creation. It is your true essence. By focusing your attention away from thinking and directing it onto your inner body, you move into a state of Being, where you are living in the present moment, in the “Now.”
When I would find myself struggling with falling back to sleep at night, I would feel my inner body radiating from my head to my toes, drinking in the life force energy of Reiki, and I would peacefully drift off back to sleep…
Give attention to your behaviors – to all thoughts, emotions, reactions, fears, desires – as they occur in the present moment. You don’t need to analyze or judge them; just observe them. Don’t let them control you. When there is “stillness” in your mind, you can direct your attention toward your inner body – feel it. This doesn’t mean you aren’t aware of your surroundings or people around you. What you are trying to do is stay rooted in your inner body, in that stillness, and thus any outward behavior or action is transformed from a state of Doing, which is controlled by thought and fear, to a state of Being, where you see things with a different consciousness. You see the beauty, majesty and sacredness of your outer reality because you are in that state of presence…
By living in the present moment, you can fully appreciate the moments of now. You don’t mourn the past or worry about the future and anticipate troubles. This only robs you of your enjoyment of today. It robs you of truly living. If you’re living in the present, you’re living in acceptance of what is, realizing that everything is complete as it is. By living in the present, you have the power to change your life. You can’t do this in the past; it’s already happened. You can’t do this in the future; it’s not here yet.
To live in the present, observe your thoughts. Witness them, but don’t judge them, and when your mind is still, go deep into your inner body. Practice conscious breathing in the form of meditation by focusing your attention on your breath filling your inner body. And finally, practice mindfulness by practicing awareness in all your actions, whatever they may be. See the sacredness in everything you do. That is living in the present moment!
This is an excerpt from Radiant Survivor: How to Shine and Thrive through Recovery from Stroke, Cancer, Abuse, Addiction and Other Life-Altering Experiences.
© Erica Tucci 2013
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ERICA TUCCI had a full life as a corporate manager of a Fortune 500 company, a healing arts business owner and an author of three books. It all came to a screeching halt in June 2011 when she had a stroke that left her completely paralyzed on her right side. During Erica’s recovery, she gained much wisdom about what’s really important in life, and she re-entered the world with a new mission: to use her story as an inspiration for others facing life challenges, which we all have, big or small. That story can be found in Erica’s book, Radiant Survivor: How to Shine and Thrive through Recovery from Stroke, Cancer, Abuse, Addiction and Other Life-Altering Experiences.