The talk of many in the spiritual community is about being in the Now. The idea behind being in the Now is that we are not focused on the past or the future. It is in dwelling on the past, and in anticipating the future, that we reinforce our identification with a limited personal self, and many of our regrets, fears, and anxieties are evoked, causing the whirling of thoughts and emotions.
Prior to Awakening, the Now is a perspective in time that just happens to be between the past and the future. It is a kind of safe harbor in which we feel some relief, or release. It gives us a taste of peace. It gives us a fore-feeling of timelessness, but it is still an exercise of our minds to practice being in the Now. It is still not yet the Now of Awakening.
After Awakening, the Now is no longer a safe harbor in time; it is timeless Presence, regardless of whether we dwell on the past or anticipate the future. This timeless Presence of Pure Conscious Being is spontaneous and natural in Awakening. Whatever arises in the Now is an occurrence in the Presence of Pure Conscious Being. And past, present, or future thinking does not disturb the stability of this Presence. So, after Awakening one can be in the Now of time as the Presence of Pure Conscious Being, and be quite at ease thinking about the past or the future.
Pure Conscious Being is not dependent on or affected by what we call time. This is why some teachings refer to Pure Conscious Being as “absolute.” I tend to prefer “eternal,” “persistent,” or “ever present” to avoid the concept that Pure Conscious Being has no qualities or characteristics which is implied by the term “absolute.” Pure Conscious Being is alive and dynamic, and most certainly has qualities. There are such things as “absolute qualities.” These are inherent qualities that are absolute in their stable persistence prior to and throughout time, and are not subject to change. But they are subject to expression. Without these “absolute qualities” there would be no Existence.
Prior to Awakening, practicing being in the Now, while a useful practice, might be more about evoking a personal sense of presence. A kind of vigilant, conscious alertness.
This is what some mindfulness practices are intended to culture. While this can be a valuable starting point for some people, we don’t want to strengthen too much that which we strive to release. Limiting the development of presence to the functional awareness of our personal self/mind, and strengthening it, reinforces separation and limited identity, and does little to develop Presence with a capital “P.”
This kind of mindfulness practice relies on vigilance and mental control. Where is there room for effortless, natural surrender? Without relinquishing control and engaging effortless, natural surrender, we cannot readily transcend the grip and scope of our minds. Our chances of relaxing into samadhi or Transcendental Consciousness is diminished.
My concern about long-term practice of this kind of mindfulness is that it consistently reinforces this functional awareness of our personal self/mind, creating a kind safe space of artificial witnessing that is counter-productive to the realization of Pure Conscious Being. And this artificial witnessing is often mistaken for the authentic witnessing of Self-Realization. They are quite different.
Of course there are some forms of mindfulness practice that are supportive — that fall closer to engaging natural surrender. In this post I’m referring to a particular style of mindfulness practice that warrants caution against overuse.
That said, I believe that even this mindfulness practice can be of meaningful value. Some people are so embedded in identification that this kind of mindfulness can soften that identification and prepare them to more successfully practice effortless, natural surrender. And for some people, this kind of mindfulness can be a method to interrupt our reactivity to life situations, or our “buttons” that can get pushed by other people or life events. But for this I believe this mindfulness practice is best used episodically, not as a consistent and ongoing practice.
The spiritual process unfolds individually, and should be approached with that in mind. I believe selecting appropriate spiritual practices that rely on effortless, natural surrender, and including some practices that engender clarity of perception, serve us best in preparing for Divine Grace. Spiritual guidance is valuable in identifying those practices that accomplish this and harmonize with us as individuals, and in providing the support to keep us on track.
Regularity of spiritual practice is essential for the vast majority of us. And if or when doubts arise about our progress, we must have faith, trust and patience that our spiritual practice will facilitate our spiritual journey. Prematurely jumping on to other practices may seem to be productive in the short term, but may not really serve us in the longer term.
We want to align with the Divine, open to Divine Presence, and prepare for Divine Grace. Our choices will be important to how our spiritual process unfolds.