Last week I shared an experience of being in meditation without actually committing to being fully present. I was flooded with thoughts. It wasn’t until I realized that yes I did want to be right where I was that I experienced the joy and the peace of choosing to be right where I was. This experience of choosing to be fully present and alive to every moment of our life is the secret to co-creating a future that fills you with zest and vitality. In this sense, the future is embedded in a fully inhabited present moment. This kind of presence amplifies and catalyzes the quality of the future that is yours to co-create.
However, there are many barriers to this practice of being fully present to this moment. For one thing, when we were growing up our own wants and needs were often (necessarily at times and unnecessarily at others) set aside for the good of the collective (the rest of the family). You see this battle being played out with children who do not want to leave the playground or the beach to go home. The negotiation for the future ensues with mom or dad on bended knee trying in one way (manipulation?) or another (force) or another (loving affirmation of how difficult it is to leave) to persuade the child.
If we were repeatedly overwhelmed in these situations we learned to either collapse or prop ourselves.** Over time collapsing results in passivity, a premature and habitual capitulation to circumstances. This can eventually lead to not knowing what we need or want. (Because what’s the point, I never get what I want anyway). The body posture of collapse is shoulders hunched forward, head sitting forward on the neck away from the torso. It’s the pouting posture. This is often confused with acceptance. It’s actually false acceptance. And collapsers are anything but powerless. They’ll put themselves in situations they don’t actually want to be in, and then make it miserable for everybody else. The moods are dark and infect everyone around them.
Propping results in chronic and habitual defiance. We will become fixated with our own needs and wants and G_d help those who get in the way of them. The body posture is propping is shoulders thrown back, chest out and chin up (ready for a battle). This is more likely to posture of the bully, or the dominator in marriage. Overtly proppers present as more powerful than collapsers, but there is the same underlying overwhelm. If I’m not constantly vigilant, I’ll be manipulated. This is the posture of corporate America.
The point of all this background is that in order to fully inhabit the present moment, particularly when the reality of the present moment doesn’t align with my ideal state or ideal future, authentic acceptance of conditions as they are is the secret to fully inhabiting my life. But if these conditions are filtered through a memories of being overwhelmed, I either collapse and become morose and moody (here we go again, I never get what I want, the whole thing is rigged against me), or I adopt a heroic attitude and habitually try to rise above reality.
I currently have a frozen shoulder, but refused to accept it, and kept working out until my shoulder simply stopped functioning.When I accept that my shoulder is seriously damaged, then I can start to listen to what my shoulder is trying to tell me about how I’m living. And it turns out that my shoulder is full of wisdom. It’s telling me all about how I hold my body, that I’ve been doing this for decades, and there are reasons for this, if I care to examine it carefully. My shoulder is actually offering me liberation and new way of being in my body. It opens me up to a great adventure of discovery on all kinds of different levels. To mention just one, I’m already much more conscious of how I move my body. If I don’t move with awareness I’m reminded immediately with wicked pain.
Of course, once I’ve accepted reality with a certain equanimity, I am free to change what I can change. But this won’t be from a place of propping, of heroically defying reality. Reality (my actual life circumstances minus the interpretation) will be my teacher. Reality will guide me to live with more natural intelligence, to respect my limits while riding the edge of my potential, to rest when I need to rest, etc. I will effect the change that is possible with humility and gratitude, not defiance.
And there will be situations which I cannot change. When this is the case, I need to rest quietly in the limitation through deep acceptance. This acceptance is born of the deep trust that that G_d is present in what I cannot change. This is one of the deep meanings of the cross in the Christian lineage.
Spiritually, this practice of deep acceptance of reality is very close to “not my will, but Thine”. That is, let’s leave the contracted expression of self out of the discernment. Our personalities are formed and kept in place by memories of past events. This is the part of us that makes it very tricky to see reality in an unfiltered way—that is, without the interpretive lens of unintegrated trauma. The transpersonal self (includes but transcends the personality) operates from a different guidance system. S/he trusts that life is for us, teaching us, especially in those times when it’s (apparently) not going “our” way. This is precisely when it’s time to start listening more deeply.
So accept it, or change it, or do both. But what we don’t want to do is live in the limbo, when we’re not really in the present moment because we don’t accept it, but neither are we doing anything about it. We also don’t want to be heroically bullying reality with our favourite submission holds. The goal in evolutionary spirituality is to act as evolutionary catalysts. The first step is to be inhabiting every moment with full presence. That’s when the future becomes present, and we are living the sacrament of now.
**These are terms developed by yoga teacher Donna Farhi, who picked up on the work of Bonnie Bainbridge.
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