…except where I am now.
I have mentioned before that I listen to Qur’an daily: in the car, while I’m doing chores at home, while I’m out, sometimes before I am about to go to sleep. There a few Surahs (chapters) I listen to daily, a few I recite as well. It’s a form of dhikr, or remembrance of God. However, it is rare that I solely listen to the Qur’an: I often listen to it while I am doing something else, so I am not often concentrating on it. I have the world and God running in parallel pretty much all the time.
Similarly, when I pray, that state of focus and single-mindedness, when the world fades away and is safely on the other side of a locked door while I spend time with God, is a fleeting blessing for me. When I achieve that state, I disappear to myself, but sadly that often eludes me. I believe prayer and dhikr can both be powerful acts of mindfulness and meditation if done correctly: their primary purpose to remember God, but the huge follow-on benefit is that you get present to yourself again, too; in connecting with God, you connect to your true self, and that brings peace and clarity. But I frequently miss the opportunity to reach that state because I am so entangled in worldly concerns; moreover, I am very rarely present in the moment I am inhabiting. I am always somewhere else, so to speak: somewhere in the future with all those tasks that need to be done; somewhere in the past with all those things I was meant to do but haven’t; somewhere in a different plane altogether thinking about the superhuman I expect myself to be and doing a thousand things in lightening speed.
I don’t know what made me do it, but the other day I woke up and decided that today I was just going to live as if I had nowhere to be except where I am now. As I said those words out loud – ‘nowhere to be except where I am now’ – they just exuded a power that comforted me and held me still. I didn’t realise it, but it was a lesson in being present in the moment. I surprised myself with how many times I said those words out loud, as a reminder and to keep myself grounded. The frequency and the calm that washed over me as I said those words highlighted the stark contrast between that state and the panicked, taut state of mind I normally inhabit: always worrying about all the things I have to do and haven’t done; anxiety over how much time my current task is going to take; panic over how ineffective I am and how little I accomplish each day; pressure on myself to be doing more, frustration with myself for not being enough…
The last time I got present to this was a couple of months ago, when I decided to listen to my daily Quranic recitation and do nothing else. I lay down on the floor, relaxed my body, closed my eyes, and let the thoughts in my mind come to me without judgement, and then let them go. Again, I got present to the panic, the pressure on myself to be doing more, be more, use my time better, worry about the time I take to do anything.
It strikes me that if I am not present to the only moment I have, which is now, then it is difficult to have any kind of existence at all. I miss life, my own and other people’s. It also struck me that maybe I use the panic and worry and not being present as a cunning decoy to not actually do – because that would be scary, right? To get things done and be pretty kick-ass ninja in getting closer towards what I want in my life – and just being efficient. Climbing that mountain of dreams and ambitions and commitments is daunting, and one way of really scaring myself out of even taking a few steps is to say ‘it’s too much! You’re not going to do it! Actually, you should have done it already! What, it’s going to take THAT much time? What a waste, it probably won’t work anyway. Better spend your time doing something else’ (and when I think that about enough things, I end up doing…nothing).
I also got that, when I lose myself to perpetual worry about how I am going to get things done, what I am meant to do etc, I am thinking solely about me. My time. My tasks (even if they are for others – I make it all about me because it becomes an issue of MY time). My goals. And I am not present with other people.
I have nowhere to be except where I am right now.
Breathe. I’m alive, and I’m right here. This moment is perfect. I’m doing just fine.
When I spent the day being present, repeating the above – nowhere to be except where I am now – I found time opening up to spend with others. I spent quality time with my father, not just lazy time in his company, but time spent engaging with him, being of service to him, trying to give him something as a gift of my time. I also let inspiration come to me to write, to think about my ambitions and goals, instead of squeezing it away out of panic over time. And the peace! It was just unfamiliar to me, to be forgiving of myself rather than always so critical and exacting.
It was one day, but it was such a valuable lesson. I’m going to keep these words close and repeat them often to keep me on the path of being present in my daily life. Furthermore, I want to bring this to my prayer, to my remembrance of God, because to have that power of presence while I am in worship would just multiply itself manifold. I would have integrity in my worship, and that would reflect back into my daily life.
I have nowhere to be except where I am now.
If you have any techniques you use to stay mindful and present in your daily lives, I’d love to hear them – it might be really helpful for me and others, too 🙂