Here and Now
Have you heard of this new flotation therapy?
I heard about it from a friend at a meeting last week. You float underwater in complete stillness and utter silence. No ambient noise. No muscles twitching against gravity. My friend said it’s hard to handle. And I can see how it would separate the meditators from the imitators. It’s the stillness that makes meditation so difficult to me. The lack of mental and bodily stimulus is uncomfortable.
It’s hard to simply be here and now.
I live a tech-friendly first-world consumer-dependent life. If I don’t stop to think about what this means, I am in denial of its effect on my natural state of mind. Should I be this uncomfortable in the quiet and the stillness, in the here and now?
This post began for me when my sponsor recommended the Insight Timer app to help me do some breathing meditation.
I’ve only had consistent success with meditation alternatives. I’m better trying to direct my tornado of thought rather than shut it down. But when a sponsor suggests something, well, you do it. It’s sort of like if you’ve been holding your breath for a minute, and someone says, “I suggest to take a breath now.”
I understand the appeal of the app. It’s more than just healing music and timed bells. It’s a community of meditators, and you can do most of the things that you can do on a social media portal: find friends nearby, join a group and start a discussion, like somebody’s post or comment. It’s a strange amalgamation, this Insight Timer, at once a tool for quiet mindfulness and another of our many lures to connect to far away places from our pocket. Do I really need to know that Tam in Vietnam meditated at the same time as I did? But, isn’t it cool to feel so worldly, so connected?
This is what social media does. It tells us there’s a whole world of activity we are connected to in our pocket, and if we don’t refresh our notifications, we will be missing out on the good stuff. Even when the better stuff is right in front of you: bathing a child, cooking a meal, taking a walk, talking with your spouse. Those are the activities that center me in mind, body, and spirit.
The notion of what’s here and now has been growing on me lately like a sponge absorbing water.
First, my sponsor gets me into meditating, then my wife tells me about this documentary Minimalism, which chronicles the ways commercialism convinces us that what we have is inadequate. The here and now is not enough if we convince ourselves we need something else.
I experienced first-hand the effects of children’s advertising recently. While mourning the loss of my wife’s grandmother, there was a lot of TV time for the kids. My son came to me at one point and asked if I can turn his jacket into Spiderman web-shooters. I like a good challenge. So, I knotted the sleeves of his jacket at the wrist.
“But they need to shoot daddy?”
“Why is that?”
“Because Spiderman shooters go shooooooo.” He pointed his wrist at the wall where his imagination shot a string of spider webbing.
No sooner were the tears of frustration welling in his eyes than I saw the television behind him. An ad for these awesome Spider Man Web Shooters was playing. If you press into your palm with your middle- and ring-fingers the way Spider Man does, they shoot out silly-string.
Ad agencies used to appeal to parents. But since the expansion in children’s programming, they now go straight to the source, targeting impressionable imaginations like my son’s.
We learn at such a young age in this country that we need more than we have to be happy.
It’s been awhile since I’ve brushed up on Buddhism, but I really dig the way Buddha identified that all attachments lead to suffering. We suffer in our want for what we don’t have. And then getting what we want creates an even deeper longing for more of what we don’t have. It is endless. And it starts young.
If the sponsor talk and the documentary weren’t enough, one minor emotional meltdown in church and my pastor has me reading Love Wins by Rob Bell.
A salient phrase to sum up Bell’s fresh take on scripture is the title of Chapter Two: “Here Is the New There”. Western Civilization has misplaced where Jesus said heaven was. Heaven is accessible in this life and the heaven we travel to exists right here and now.
I know it’s true. I’ve experienced heaven. I’m sure of it. In fact, when both children are on my knee and I am reading them a story, I know heaven cannot improve upon my life at that moment. It’s been helpful to have my gut instincts backed by some scripture and Bell’s good writing.
The whole notion of marching through march, a theme I’ve been using to inspire and motivate, began at the AWP conference I attended at the end of February.
I saw it as an initial step in becoming a professional writer. It didn’t disappoint. The book fair, which I only left once to catch Ta-Nehisi Coates speak, was a never-ending emporium of publishers and writers. It was overwhelming. It gave my vision for what I’m doing a much-needed dose of reality.
While much of my time there was riddled with anxiety—“I should be doing this” or “why haven’t I done that?”—the longer-lasting takeaway from the experience has been my deep satisfaction with this blog. And you, the reader, the supportive community member. Our interaction makes me feel validated. And feeling validated means I can do this forever and be happy.
I can do what I’m doing here and now and it is enough.
It’s easy to imagine the future in dreamy superlatives and grandiose expectations.
And it’s just as easy to think that I can be happy if I live in the right place or if I get my house in order or if I get a house to begin with or if I finish my degree.
What’s harder is realizing that here and now, I am all that I want and I have all that I need.