By Thea Iberall
“The more you are focused on time—past and future—the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.” --Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
I want to share a story. When I was 24 years old and living in New York City, I had a nervous breakdown. Life was not going the way I wanted it to go. it was intolerably painful and I wanted to die. One evening, as I was walking to my college classes, I took a wrong turn and didn’t stop. I just let go of my life. Somehow, I wound up in Staten Island with no memory of how I got there. I was told later I was lying in the snow in the yard of a friend’s house. The next day, a psychiatrist put me on anti-depressants and sleeping pills.
I remember those anti-depressant pills very well. They succeeded in shutting down my ability to feel, and they put me into a state of complete submission. I agreed with what everyone else wanted. I had no desires, no wants. I was like mush. I smiled a lot and so did my friends. They thought my behavior was funny. I didn’t care. I didn’t care about anything. Nothing mattered. I was disconnected from the past and the future.
“All negativity is caused by an accumulation of psychological time and denial of the present. Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry - all forms of fear - are caused by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.” -- Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment:
I think Eckhart Tolle had a similar thing happen to him when he was 29 years old. But he turned it into something I wasn’t able to. He woke up in the middle of the night with dread and a deep longing for annihilation, like I did. He started shaking. But then he heard the words, “resist nothing.” In the morning and subsequent months, he was in a deep blissful peace. In his reflections, he realized that the intense suffering that night relieved him of his unhappy, deeply fearful self. What was left was his true nature. He had an inner transformation and let go of the noise of his mind.
I do want to be in the Now. I do want to resist nothing. But I don’t ever want to again be in that “mush” state like when I was on those anti-depressants. That is not the Now I want to be in. What is a truly healthy Now? I mean, what is it in real, practical terms? What I’ve learned from Tolle and many other spiritual teachers is this: To have awareness. To let go of fear of the future and the grievances of the past. To strive for serenity. To live in acceptance of outcomes. And to be a loving human being.
You’re going to realize it one day—that happiness
was never about your job, or your degree, or being in a
relationship. Happiness was never about following
in the footsteps of all of those who came before you,
it was never about being like the others.
One day, you’re going to see it—that happiness was
always about the discovery, the hope, the listening to
your heart and following it wherever it chose to go.
Happiness was always about being kinder to yourself,
it was always about embracing the person you
were becoming. One day, you will understand. That
happiness was always about learning how to live
with yourself, that happiness was never in the hands
of other people. It was always about you. It was
always about you.
I’ve been struggling with being in the present a lot. I saw my mother for the first time in about a year two days ago. She was in the hospital. I could feel after three or four hours, I was completely drained. She felt much better. I felt that same drain and negativity. When I got home, I looked up ways to protect myself from negative energy which I know pretty much. I’m struggling with ‘resist nothing’, that idea that we still have to protect ourselves. I haven’t figured out that radical acceptance along with protecting ourselves.
Thank you for your writing. I went into the meditation with ‘what about addiction, what about PTSD responses, what about trauma, what about having a mother who didn’t love me.’ I went into the meditation thinking about all that, and thinking about present moments in my past where it was just sheer terror. I’ve been encouraged to hold a picture. The earliest one was of me, less than a year old. My oldest sister added the words ‘in jail’ to it. Years later, I spent years in and out of jails and mental hospitals, off and on, the anti-depressants as they tried to fix me. It’s the same age my youngest granddaughter is. I put her to bed last night. She woke up and she stills nurses and wants her mother. I tell her I’m her grandmother. I’m not her mother, I can’t breastfeed her. But I thought of what she needed, calm consistent loving presence, encouragement to be curious. She just needed love. The last words of the reading echoed as I went into the meditation with those questions filling every cell of my body. It’s up to me to ensure now that I recognize these traumatic responses and use love to do the best I can, surround myself with loving presences and love, from within and without, from myself and from others. I thank this group for being a consistent, loving presence in my life.
For years, I’ve had a career based on not being in the present, but being in the future. When I was interviewed for a job, they said they liked my ability to see around corners and see what is ahead. Paradoxically, I’m a student of history. What was missing: I had the future, I had the past, I didn’t have the now. This group has been helpful because I am concerned and interested about the future. I can visualize, as if it is real, a better future. If I don’t live in the now, I can’t take any tangible steps to make that better future a reality. What has really helped me, particularly since Covid started, is the daily hike I do because it is totally focused on the present. If I don’t focus on the present, I fall over a root on the path. I feel those tree roots are placed there specifically to keep me in the present.
Thank you for your writings and shares. Just hearing your voices is so comforting and loving and accepting. As some point, I’ll have to reread it, what Eckhart Tolle said about emotions being attached to the past and to the future seems so accurate. There are many things I want to resolve about the past. And I have fear of the future around my family and trying to provide.
What spoke to me was about the past, present, and future. What came for me was about my client, who really lives in the present. She doesn’t remember her past, very little about it. The future is a mystery, it concerns a lot. Not knowing what is next. One way I have to help ground her is gratitude. Focus on gratitude. Things to be thankful for right now. I went into my meditation deeper, and what helped me be present now were my house plants. I watered them before the meditation, and I was really feeling their presence and energy. I want to thank my house plants for being here. It’s me, my cat, and my house plants.
Thank you for the reminder. I was struggling to come up with a list at the end of the reading of where my spiritual center was, and I forgot gratitude.
Thank you. Your voice is soothing as you shared. I’m having a simple medical procedure tomorrow and I’m scared. I confirmed with the doctor and they had the procedure wrong. I had to have a Covid test yesterday. I panicked, I’m wondering what’s going to happen. I expressed my concerns to the doctor’s office and it helped because I felt heard. But I still have fear. I appreciate everyone’s authenticity here. I have a nervous habit. I was watching a show that talked about the need to be careful going to a hospital because one can get a staph infection. I loved what you said about the dread of the future and grievances of the past. Be in the present. I can’t change what I’ve done as far as my nervous habits, but I can change how I handle my psyche going into this medical procedure. I used to say I love being put to sleep like that, but now I’m a little bit scared.
Carl Jung said “what we resist, persists.” You don’t have to like it to acknowledge that it is out there or in your life, but if you can do that, then you can let go of it, whether it’s a relationship or something you’ve done yourself or the state of the world. When you resist it, it persists, and it has real power over you.
I frequently use a meditation form Thich Nhat Hanh. It took me a while to grasp what it meant, but now I use it all the time and it grounds me. It goes like this:
“I’ve arrived, I am home.
I am here and in the now.
I am solid, I am free.
In the ultimate I dwell.”
Thank you for that. Life is a paradox. I struggled with writing this. I was trying to figure out how to distinguish the difference between the drug-induced state of the Now vs a true healthy being in the Now. Shirley helped me define the first one as a complete submission. The difference is awareness. Being in the Now with awareness. It’s not about being a doormat. Protecting yourself is good and there’s lots of ways to do that, but also to accept the outcome and move on.
Thank you all for joining us in this adventure. Have a wonderful day.