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.  

20 Responses to “Here and Now

  • Colin Chatburn
    5 months ago

    being a man of solutions,non of which are very useful.i gather theres some very good waterproof phones on the market.you could have one in the flotation tank.to stay in contact and play angry birds.problem solved

    • Colin! That’s hilarious. You are the master, sir, of devils advocate. And you are right, I think. We will find a way to connect, underwater.

  • Man, there’s a lot in here, Mark! I agree with that premise of the “here and now,” and the struggles we have with that in our modern society. And for sure you can expect me from here on out to remain conflicted….and probably inconsistent!…with regards to my thoughts on social media! Hope you guys have a great trip.

    • I think inconsistent and conflicted is how I will be too, HD. At least you aren’t awaiting moderation…for this comment…any longer!

  • I just watched the Minimalism doc this last week while I folded hoardes of clean laundry. 😞 The water meditation sounds like being in utero…I think I would love to be somewhere totally still and quiet…but I’m a lot older than you! Lol maybe your time will come. I just finished Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance….it had a profound effect on me. I haven’t stopped thinking about it. Have you read that yet Mark? I’m probably going to have to blog about it soon. Anyway, so good to read you, as always. Great thought provoking stuff.

    • Thanks for stopping by or not. I haven’t read that book, but now it’s on my list. Thank you for the recommendation! I didn’t consider that it is a utero meditation but I think you’re exactly right.

  • i love that book by Rob Bell and I also love the Minimalists! They both offer some pretty big ideas (ie. requiring alot from the viewer and reader) and I have found that they all challenge us to be better and do better in our world. thanks for sharing in this post.

  • Staying still is my problem as well. I found another website with meditation techniques, it is called Headspace. Oh and thank you for reminding me to watch Minimalism 🙂

  • Hi Mark!
    I would love to try the floatation tank!
    Learning how to be here and now is a dream of mine, too.
    I tend to be far and away, or worried about something, which makes that hard.
    Here and now, I am happy when I am with a friend, or hubs, or at yoga, or volunteering, or at a meeting.
    I am also happy supporting other bloggers in recovery.
    I am not here and now when I am comparing myself to other people, feeling left out, or wishing I was not me!
    Thank you for the book and movie suggestions!
    xo
    Wendy

  • Excellent post, Mark! Trying new things is always good – don’t ever stop. But, we also find we already have what we need and are where we want to be! 😉

    *Been there, done that and my t-shirt collection is awesome!* 😄

  • Beautiful and poignant Mark. This “here and now” keeps me going in recovery, it keeps me grounded, grateful, and connected to self and others. A reminder of the bounty we can receive and give beyond materialism. Thank you for this post!

    • Thanks Marahu and welcome back to the cyber world. Hope you had many doses of here and now bliss on your hiatus!

      Will reply to your email soon as well!

  • Very well put! If you can’t be happy and content now then you will never be. I’m paraphrasing Eckhart here, sure it was something like that. xxx

  • stepsherpa
    4 months ago

    (I think) the 70’s were a turning point for many in my “old guy” age bracket. The freaks and rock stars shouted “kill your television” and threw them out of ritzy hotel windows.The stiffs said rise up and stick you’re head out the window and shout ” I’M MAD AS HELL AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE”, With the blurred lines of free speech readily available in print leaving accountability at the bubbler or the goody goody coffee clutch crowd.

    The western word, the world we created? We are now at war with each other with the simple mindset “DEAL WITH IT”. It now had a mind of it’s own. An out of control artificial intelligence creating synthetic knowledge or bullshit. But now we’re addicted so any shit is better than no shit. We counter with hold the pickle hold the whatever, lettuce serve it your way as we become a society of code breakers A few billion shades of grey.We the people, who or what ever we are at any given moment. We jockey for position, struggle to be heard.

    We lash out in war. The war on drugs as we dip into our personal stash of Ambien and Zanax, war on obesity as we salivate for something with sugar, white flour, and lard we pretend we are hiding from ourselves in the bottom of the grocery bag. The war on dignity is fought on all fronts. Pants hanging shoes untied public f-bombing cell phone rap thumping shin pierced Chinese imported road raging blue haired zombies on shiny Home Depot lawn tractors…People in my way. What if the problem was me? A little me? Somewhat me? How would I even know? I am way too busy being the victim. Besides, the world is a ghetto anyway, any evening news cast will provide that proof..

    Whelp? Knowing who I am and where I fit is not always easy. I’m alcoholic, “sober alcoholic” mind you yet still a compulsive people worshipper so there’s always others in my mirror.. It’s like OK everybody out of the way, I’m trying to look at myself here! Reality check! I’m the guy who builds his Harley as an art creation, spending hours in my garage boosting the memory in my Galaxy 7 isn’t for me. Adding a better laptop processor I picked up on Craigslist? no..Being at the right place in time when a thick cut rib-eye is on sale for 7.99 a lb? That’s the highlight of my day.I am aware of where I am and where I fit and well? I like the simplicity of it. Am I ok here while the ship has sailed? Yeah, the bridges between myself and those in my life than matter most are not burnt. In my world I come and go as I please, I am free and not afraid to be left behind..

    I am well aware of the blogger/writer tornado. It’s good even great when it’s spinning smoothly with that edgy element of danger but getting hit by a flying cow? That’s bad. Can the tornado be controlled? I can’t be sure. Is it a act of God? don’t know. Am I an act of God? Too soon to tell. Should I keep writing? Definitely. Am I stealing validation or giving hope when I post. I guess that’s where the balance comes in. My conduct online is as it is offline. I am true to myself first that maybe others may benefit. Yeah. That makes sense .Even in the internet world of unaccountability my insides match my outsides, yup, even when they don’t have to. Even when I can be anyone I desire I choose to be myself. It’s that AA back of the chip thing “to thyne own self be true”.

    I went long. Posting anyway, thanks for the space.

  • This is so true and so important to be remembered here and now … Thanks!

  • Never heard of floatation therapy but I want to try! I’m really excited now! If only I had a place to try!

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