After a lifetime of religious indoctrination, this was a difficult concept to grasp. I’d always been taught to live for the moment was a sin. I was supposed to suffer now and live later, serve my time for the “Lord” and get my reward in heaven.
So I flushed 30 years down the toilet, running the rat-race to the “afterlife.” I let moment after moment slip through my fingers, never enjoying one of them. Even when I was having a moment I should’ve enjoyed – like lying in the arms of a lover or kissing my baby’s perfect cheeks a million times – I couldn’t just be there, where my body was. In my head I was somewhere else – mourning my father’s death, worrying about how long it would take for my boyfriend to get tired of me, watching the clock – stressed and already late – counting down the number of suckles it would take for my daughter to fall into a deep enough sleep for me to sneak away and run red lights all the way to work.
I wasn’t living. I had never lived. I was a walking zombie waiting for the apocalypse, so I could be done with it already.
So when I was given permission to live in the moment, to experience heaven now, I was excited and hopeful and determined to figure out how to “do” it. With practice, I did get better at staying present, staying aware, and sitting with my emotions, rather than running from them… but I could only stay there – in the now – for a few minutes at a time, before getting swept away into the business of life.
Finally, a couple of months ago, I read the following about the Mbuti Pygmies – present day gatherer-hunters in Central Africa – in a book called Origins:
“Try to imagine a way of life where land, shelter and food are free, and where there are no leaders, bosses, politics, organized crime, taxes, or laws. Add to this the benefits of being part of a society where everything is shared, where there are no rich people, and where happiness does not mean the accumulation of material possessions.
The Mbuti have never domesticated animals or planted crops …
The Mbuti believe that by A CORRECT FULFILLMENT OF THE PRESENT, the past and future will take care of themselves. Primitive people do not live through memories, and generally have no interest in birthdays or measuring their ages. As for the future, they have little desire to control what does not yet exist, just as they have little desire to control nature. Their moment-by-moment joining with the flux and flow of the natural world does not preclude an awareness of the seasons, but this does not constitute an alienated TIME CONSCIOUSNESS THAT ROBS THEM OF THE PRESENT.”
“This is it!” I thought. “These people have it figured out!” They don’t even have to try to live in the present, they just are. They don’t have a savings account or a retirement fund. They don’t have to save up for a wedding, college or a funeral. They don’t have a mortgage or a car payment. They don’t need a job with health insurance. They don’t have to set an alarm clock to force them out of bed before the sun, so they can brush their teeth, half asleep, and sit in an office day half awake. They don’t have to borrow money to pay bills. They aren’t worried about getting laid off or fired. They don’t give a shit who gets elected or when the economy is going to take it’s next nose dive.”
They live like the sparrows – not concerned about where their next meal will come from, because it’s alway been there, right in front of them. And because they’re not stressed out about the future, they don’t abuse or neglect their children, who grow up untraumatized by their past. Without a past or future to worry about, what else can they do, but be engrossed in the moment?
So I’ve found a clue on the treasure map back to bliss. I’ll share with you what I learn on my journey and I hope you’ll share what you’ve learned on yours. And, eventually, I hope we can all return to now.