the year of "be here now"
“Here we are—here and now. That’s all there is.”
Happy 2020! On New Year’s Day, I decided to dedicate this year to one of the most profound spiritual teachings I have ever encountered: BE HERE NOW. These three simple words have had a lasting impact on my life, as they have had on countless others. It seems only fitting to honor the life of Ram Dass, who taught us their significance, by delving into the present moment as fully and deeply as I can and writing about my experiences here. My intention is to offer daily meditations on this theme.
But what does it mean to be here now? How does it feel? And what does it take not just to have the experience but to live sustainably in it? Such questions have been the focal point of both my spiritual practice and my life’s work as a psychologist. I call the experience of being fully present in the present “inspiration” and have devoted over three decades to exploring the nature of this experience, as described in my recent TEDx talk:
Inspiration lies at the heart of virtually every major creative breakthrough in human history. That’s a pretty big deal! Some have tried to downplay the importance of inspiration in the creative process. Thomas Edison said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” While there’s no denying all the hard work that goes into creativity, inspiration happens to be the tail that wags the dog. If you take it out of Edison’s equation, all you’re left with is...well…a whole lot of sweat.
For me, inspiration matters regardless of the outcome. This is the ultimate experience of the here and now. As psychologist Abraham Maslow observed, when you are inspired, you are “totally immersed, fascinated and absorbed in the present.” A radical shift happens—one that has been reported by creative people in every age and in all parts of the world. You become so utterly lost in the moment that you are, in Maslow’s words, “timeless, selfless, outside of space, of society, of history.”
Here is one of the great paradoxes of spiritual life: To be here now, in the fullest sense imaginable, is to disappear into the present moment. Ram Dass said, “The game is not about becoming somebody; it’s about becoming nobody.” I have found this out for myself, over and over, through direct experience. In moments of inspiration, there is no Victor to be found in this body. He is gone. All of his history—the total sum of his thoughts, words, and actions—ceases to exist or even matter.
So, what is left? When I vanish in this way, the only thing remaining in my body is: the Creator of the Freaking Universe! Call it what you will. I have tried all kinds of names for this ultimate source and essence of creation, this genius that inhabits the body, this light of awareness that illuminates all thoughts and all things. No words are adequate to name the ineffable or describe the indescribable. Currently, I have settled on “creative spirit.” Feel free to fill in the blanks with your own wording. Honestly, I hardly care what you call it. I am far more interested in how you experience it.
For me, an undeniable transformation happens that is thrilling and instantaneous. Suddenly I become a total embodiment of the creative spirit at play. It’s like the experience of staring at a Magic Eye picture such as the one shown here. At first, you see only a seemingly jumbled color pattern. Then, in a flash, your perspective shifts to reveal the 3D image hidden in that pattern.
You can see the underlying image of a bird in flight when you stop trying to see it and just give into the experience. The change in perspective that reveals the bird to you is a combination of art and grace. Your ability to relax, surrender, and allow the 3D image to show itself takes practice, like any art. Grace comes into play when the image appears, unforced, without any effort on your part. It feels like a gift or favor that has been bestowed upon you once you are prepared to receive it.
This is my recipe for inspiration: Art and Grace. I have no issue with the use of props, tools and toys that can help draw me into the here and now, as long as I don’t become so attached to them that I end up giving these vehicles far more credit than they deserve. I have spent a lifetime developing and refining the art of inspiration. Part of my art is recognizing when an external device can help stimulate my internal process. More about that tomorrow.
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