An important part of Paramhansa Yogananda’s mission was to help people understand, in very practical terms, how by living in the present, they can achieve eternity. In God, space and time don’t exist. In God, there is only here and now.
People who lived thousands of years ago are here right now. So also are people who live in other dimensions—they’re all here. But that’s something that maya or delusion doesn’t allow us to see. In maya, time seems to be passing.
When you transcend the ego and realize your unity with God, you know that time and space are not a reality. It’s as Paramhansa Yogananda, wrote in his poem, Samadhi: “Present, past, future: no more for me, but ever-present, all-flowing I, I, everywhere!”
How the great ones live
All the great ones live in the eternal present. For example, there was the time my Guru asked one of the disciples, Mr. Rogers, who had been a professional house painter, to paint a room. One or two days later, but before he had bought the paint, Mr. Rogers was present when Yogananda was showing the room to his most advanced disciple, Rajarsi Janakananda.
Yogananda said, “And he painted this whole room all by himself.” The room hadn’t even been painted! But Yogananda saw everything as done. For him, everything was now.
Non-attachment is essential
The key to living in the here and now is non-attachment. You need to feel that family, your job, your children—everything is a part of the Infinite, and that nothing belongs to you, particularly.
When you are attached, you view your happiness as dependent on someone or something outside yourself. With family and children especially, this makes you want something from them, which causes you to look to the future.
To be non-attached to loved ones is to love them impersonally, in God and not as your own. It is to love them more not less, because impersonal love is not dependent on someone’s feelings for you. Freed from the constrictions of selfishness, it’s something you hold in your heart at all times, regardless of circumstances.
Let nothing else enter your mind
Patience is another aspect of living in the here and now. To be patient, is to be non-attached.
For example, I wrote a book on my Guru’s commentary on the Bhagavad Gita. I began work on it October 3, 2005. In less than two months I wrote over six hundred pages. How was that possible?
When I do something, I take one moment at a time, and I don’t let anything else enter into my mind. That’s something you couldn’t do if you were impatient. But with that approach, I’m living in the present. And you find that you can accomplish what seem like miracles because you banish time. You can get things done virtually in the present.
Accepting reality as it is
To live fully in the present, you also have to accept reality as it is. You can’t wish things to be other than they are.
Once, on my way to go skiing, I applied the brakes of my car and skidded on a patch of ice and rammed into the side of a large bus. Though barely scratching the bus, the car was put out of commission permanently. Intent on continuing our trip, my friends and I all happily piled out of the car and entered the bus. As we did so, a passenger, commiserating, exclaimed “What a pity! You’ve totaled your car!”
I was viewing the incident as an abstract event, about which I’d obviously need to do something, but not immediately. I replied, “Whatever the case, I’d be happy again in another week. Why waste that time in feeling sorry for myself? I’m happy right now!”
It’s attachment to our view of “how things should be” that causes us to respond negatively to unexpected events. Why let yourself be a slave to circumstance? Learn to accept reality as it is.
Whenever you find yourself reacting with delight to events or circumstances, tell yourself firmly, “It won’t last. I refuse to let my happiness be conditioned by anything outward.” Similarly, when tempted to feel sad or sorrowful, tell yourself, “This inconvenience is temporary. Eventually it will yield to its opposite.”
Meditation enables you to accept reality as it is, even if it becomes a nightmare. Living on a higher level of consciousness brings wisdom and detachment, and the recognition that every reaction is followed by its inherent opposite.
Be patient with people
Accepting reality as it is includes being patient with people, accepting them as they are, and not wishing them to be different. Interestingly, you can do much more good for people if you have this attitude.
If you say, “Well, he’s doing the best he can for who he is,” and work with that reality, you will find that you can inspire that person to want to be better. But if you keep telling him, “You shouldn’t do this,” and “You shouldn’t do that,” he will just dig in his heels and be more that way.
The same thing applies to yourself. Accept yourself as you are. Tell yourself, “I’m doing the best I can for who I am.” With that attitude, somehow everything works out for the best. You can make a difference once you’ve accepted reality as it is.
Whittle away at all false images
Distance in time and space surrounds places and events with an attractive halo. Grass looks greener, as we know, at a distance. The past, similarly, assumes a dreamlike quality that bears little resemblance to actual experience. And the future suggests a shining contrast to the gray present.
Whittle away at all such false images. You won’t change merely by transporting your body elsewhere, either in time or in space. For wherever you are, there—quite simply—are you: the same old moods, the same headaches, the same fatigue and seizures of selfishness and anger.
So whittle away at your dreams and attachments. The more non-attached you are, the freer you will be. The more you learn to live fully here and now, completely accepting the present, the more energy will be released for you to enjoy the present.
Yogananda said, “Most people live in the past or the future. When you can be truly happy in the present, then you have God.”