"The way to experience nowness is to realize that this very moment, this very point in your life, is always the occasion...That is one reason that your family situation, your domestic everyday life, is so important. You should regard your home as sacred, as a golden opportunity to experience nowness."
- Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
With a new year upon us, it can be easy to find oneself dwelling on the past and on the future, getting lost in the fantasy of what was and what could be. We seem to do this on a daily basis, new year or no, and in this constant flitting from dream to dream, from memory of what was to hopes and fears around what might be, we completely lose the present moment. And in losing the present moment, we lose the magic and power of what is right here, right now.
Because that is all there is - just nowness. Everything else isn't real. The past is a fleeting memory, the future ungraspable and unknowable. It is only just this, just now. It seems we are always forgetting this simple, liberating truth. Caught up in the daily tasks and trials of parenting, it can be easy to lose sight of the present moment, because the present moment seems so completely ordinary, so completely whatever, so completely, at times, hard. Especially when we are experiencing challenges.
My children don't sleep. They don't go to sleep easily and they certainly don't stay asleep. The nighttime is an endless chain of waking and soothing and changing beds. Mama and daddy don't get much rest. This has been very challenging for us. Added to this challenge for me is that my two year old is still nursing, and still nursing as much as his ten month old brother. These obstacles - the lack of sleep, and the frequent toddler nursing - have threatened at times to undo me in the sense of me losing my equanimity and patience with my children. So I have been contemplating how I can transform this sense of challenge.
What I have realized is it gets challenging for me when I cease to live in the present moment, but instead dwell on what has been and what I fear will be. When I begin to think of how little sleep I have been getting, or that I was just up an hour ago, and that it is 2:00 a.m., and that I just wish they would sleep, well, this is when I begin to become undone. But if I can ignore the clock (even turn it to the wall), bring my mind back from counting how many times I have been woken up already, bring my mind back from the hope that they just stay asleep, back to the present moment, well, then I can deal with things. I can nurse the baby right now, bring my toddler back into bed with me right now, stroke both their heads until they fall asleep, right now. Then I fall asleep as well. I end up feeling much better about things and more rested in the morning when I can do this.
The same with the toddler nursing. When I can stop counting how many times he has nursed that day, and drop my fear that he will want to nurse a few more times before the day is through, I am better able to just be with him in the present moment, as he is, and then set compassionate boundaries with him - agreeing to just a short nurse, or finding something that he will accept in its place. I become more resourceful because my world stops being so small, so narrowed by the past and future crushing it in. More possibilities arise in just nowness. When I instead react with the weight of the past - and its attendant resentment and suffering - nobody is satisfied.
One of my most profound experiences while meditating occurred on a retreat I did in Seattle. I had been a very serious practitioner at that point for the prior couple of years, and had done several long, silent retreats, including a 30 day retreat. So I guess things had been percolating for awhile. But on that rainy day, after about a day of silent meditation, I was penetrated by the realization that this is it. This. Just this moment. This is my life. Right here, right now. Nothing else. Just this moment, and then this moment, and then this moment. Nothing fancy. Completely ordinary, simple, unastonishing. Different than how it was. Different than how it will be, possibly. But overflowing with richness, with aliveness. I almost shouted out with relief. Yes, I think it was relief I felt! For a few moments, the past fell away, and I was able to let go of the dream of the future, and just rest with what is.
Now, I obviously don't rest in this awareness all the time. Or even most of the time. But the more I bring myself back to nowness, the more familiar I become with it, the more I trust it, the more I am able to stay with it. This is why I trust the path of parenting. Because this is it. This is my life, right now. Moment by moment by moment. And this is freedom. Chogyam Trungpa continues in his teaching:
"Appreciating sacredness begins very simply by taking an interest in all the details of your life. Interest is simply applying awareness to what goes on in your everyday life—awareness while you're cooking, awareness while you're driving, awareness while you're changing diapers, even awareness while you're arguing. Such awareness can help to free you from speed, chaos, neurosis, and resentment of all kinds. It can free you from the obstacles to nowness, so that you can cheer up on the spot, all the time."