Generally, insights are proceeded by a certain train of thought. But once in a while they just plop into the mind like a raindrop falling from a clear sky. Yesterday, while meditating with the Ananda Assisi community, a perception popped into my mind without any preamble: “We need to move from ‘Nowhere’ to ‘Now Here.’” Plop!
Linguistically, it is fun — you just move a single letter to the left, which cancels the negating “no” and changes it into a positive “now.” The extra space allows “nowhere” to become “now here.” But what is easy to do with letters is harder to do with thoughts and emotions. How do we cancel our negative thoughts, create a little space for ourselves, and learn to live in the here and now? This, in itself, is a spiritual path.
When I first came on the spiritual path, a book called Be Here Now, by Ram Dass, was very popular. Its title sums up its message. Almost all paths and meditation techniques urge the practitioner to be focused in the present moment.
What is “nowhere”? It is the unsubstantial mental territory located in the nether regions of our consciousness. Fears, regrets, vague thoughts about the past and future, and other nasty creatures dwell there.
The problems of the past can continue only in this nowhere land of your own mind. It is you, only you, who nurture them even though they continue to haunt you. Paramhansa Yogananda said, “Your memory will do exactly what you tell it to do, so be careful that you do not let it repeat any unpleasant experience. . . . Remember, in your consciousness there are all kinds of records, both good and bad. You must destroy all records that revive memories of unhappiness and evil deeds and unkindness. You must scatter them to the winds.”
Likewise, you create your own bucket of worries about the future. A friend told us that his mother had fretted about a potential problem for two weeks. When it never came to pass, she had the good grace to say, “Well, I wasted a good worry on that one.” Your worries, too, exist only in the nowhere land of your mind. The quickest way to overcome fear and worry is to take a few deep breaths and move your thoughts from Nowhere to Now Here.
We saw a talk by a very successful entrepreneur who was asked, “What is the secret of your success?” We loved his reply: “I am a visionary and have a very clear picture of the future. Unfortunately, my vision only extends for the next fifteen minutes. The rest of my success is due to hard work and perseverance.” And so it is with the spiritual path.
People enjoy any pursuit that keeps them in the here and now. Creative pursuits — playing music, painting, cooking something new — are wonderful ways to live in the present. Play is another way and is important not only for people but for animals too. A friend sent us a delightful video of a bird playing on a sprinkler. (We’ve included it at the end for your amusement.) Although the video is quite short, she said the bird continued playing this way for a full five minutes!
God exists completely in the present, beyond the twin delusions of time and space, and making the shift from Nowhere to Now Here brings us closer to Him. Yogananda wrote, “When storms of trials shriek, and when worries howl at me, I will drown their noises, loudly chanting: ‘God! God! God!’”
So, when your mind drifts and begins to cause you distress, bring it back immediately. Let your mantra be, “I need to move from Nowhere to Now Here.”