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Center for Enlightened Leadership

The Faces of Now

  Robert W. Cole

Robert W. Cole
Managing Editor
and Senior Associate

The Now is exceedingly finite. It is this pinprick of a moment, and this one, and this one—each fleeting bit of Now replaced by the next one. To focus one’s life truly in the immediacy of the Now is…well, it’s beyond the everyday ability of most of us spirits in training.

The Now is also maddeningly relative. Example #1: My favorite, most blissfully serene pastime is lying in the sun. Made conscious of its physical perils by those who love me, I have abstained in recent years. For two glorious hours this week, though, I basked in lizard-like contentment. Brother Antoninus described my state in his poem “August”:

“…the mind loosens, the nerve lengthens,

All the haunting abstractions slip free and are gone;

And the peace is enormous.”

The point of my example? (Because it may be a bit slippery to grasp.) For me, those two hours in the sun were one long, languid, blissful Now, free of the “haunting abstractions” of fear and regret. Each moment flowed easily and peacefully into the next; my mind was set free.

The setting of Example #2, which occurred a day before Example #1, was a Southwest Airlines flight between Louisville and Baltimore. Mystically, perfectly, the duration of that adventure in the Now was almost exactly the same as that of Now #1: just under two hours. But where Now #1 was heaven (to me), Now #2 could be viewed as purgatory. A cramped, oversold, overly air-conditioned cabin full of the din of announcements and kicking, screaming children and their harried parents (behind my row, at least) hurtling madly toward the Magic Kingdom in Orlando. I thought of Gary Zukav’s writings on the Earth School—that our experiences in this lifetime are a series of lessons intended to prepare us for the growth and maturation of our spirit. I grew that day—because I understood the lesson inherent in that Now.

Focusing on the Now takes constant reawakening. It’s treacherously easy to slip out of the Now and not notice. My spiritual mentor and coffee-buddy Brother Gerry Boylan created what we call the Bardstown Road Exercise. He challenged me (and himself) to be aware of how frequently one slips out of the Now during the simple act of driving down Bardstown Road in Louisville, where we both live (at least some of the time). It’s maddening! And humbling. In a blink of the eye, the Now is replaced by my grocery list, or travel plans, or regret about something left undone…or by any of a lurking host of fears and speculations. And this process of reawakening occurs and reoccurs with bewildering rapidity.

One might say, “Hey, I’m too busy dealing with what life is throwing at me every dadburn minute to take time out to assume the lotus position, say ‘Omm,’ and meditate on the sanctity of this moment, or any moment! Give me a break!”

So true. But consider briefly how much of our everyday lives we spend in, say, the check-out line at the grocery (always, it seems, the line that’s moving more slowly). In these and the many other lines in our lives, we spend time that we’d rather invest in some other pursuit. Too much frustration over “wasting” our time can suck us out of the Now before we know it. When I find myself in such a spot, I try to ask myself the question that Gerry Boylan asked me: “Are you waiting, or are you creating?” There, in that time-sucking line, as Steve Sokolow once reminded me, right there is where the notion of choice comes in. Gerald Jampolsky put it this way: “Do you choose to experience peace of mind or do you choose to experience conflict?” I aim for peace of mind, whenever possible.

So, let me see: The Now, this dot in time, is by turns blissfully serene, agonizingly unending, unbearably noisy, lovely, busy, profound—and as many more descriptors as there are beings to experience and label it. The Now is, in short, All. And what distinguishes one moment’s Now from the next? We do. The Now is exactly as we experience it. It exists just as we create it. Hard as this may be to believe at times, the Now is what we make it.

Center for Empowered Leadership ®
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