Bring it On
Being aware means being completely present in the moment. If you're not living in the moment, then when are you living? Or are you living at all?
If you've watched the slacker comedy Wayne's World, you'll probably be familiar with Garth's catch phrase, 'Live in the now'. In the cult classic, Garth is referring to Wayne's unrealistic desire for an expensive rock-god guitar. 'You'll never afford it. Live in the now' he says. As countless self-help books will tell you, this premise is also a powerful way of life applicable to all of us: live in the present moment, don't be bound to the habits of your past or cling to the grass-will-be-greener future, just be and what you really need from life will be revealed.
Eckhart Tolle - New Age guru, Oprah's latest best friend, and author of bestsellers The Power of Now (New World Library) and A New Earth (Plume Books) - advocates the same mantra. It's not exactly earth-shattering stuff, considering the idea's been around as long as Zen Buddhism - that's approximately 1 400 years. However, what Tolle has done is make the Eastern concept accessible to those of us who (on the odd occasion) don't wake up before sunrise so we can meditate for an hour before work or - shock, horror - opt for an evening out with the girls and one or three glasses of wine instead of an hour-and-a-half of yoga.
Fulfillment is not about teaching ourselves challenging techniques but is actually present within us all the time - all we have to do is look around a bit. One of the most practical concepts Tolle discusses is what he terms ‘the three modalities of awakened doing’: acceptance, enjoyment and enthusiasm.
‘Awakened doing' is all about being conscious in any task you are performing; being present instead of plodding along on autopilot. In order to be conscious, you need to be vigilant that one of the three modalities is at work in whatever you do - including everything from changing a flat tire to tapping away on your computer keyboard at work. If you are not in one of the three states, look closely, he says, and you will see that you are creating suffering for yourself or for others around you. Here we discuss how to put the three modalities to work in your own life. This will help you to live in the present and bring more happiness into your life.
We all know that we have to cultivate inner acceptance of what happens to us in life - breaking up with a boyfriend, for example, or not getting the promotion we so desperately wanted. But we also need to accept what we do in life. While this refers to the big things such as what you do for a living, it also points to smaller, everyday things - for instance doing your laundry or driving in rush-hour traffic. This means that even if you don't enjoy doing something, you can at least accept that it is what you have to do - for now, anyway.
Acceptance means 'for now, this is what this situation, this moment, requires me to do, and so I do it willingly.' So, imagine it's 4.50pm and you're already planning your evening ahead: a bubble bath followed by pizza and a few episodes of the first season of Entourage. Your boss appears at your desk. She needs help with a last-minute presentation she has to give the next day. It will mean staying at least an extra hour, maybe two. You certainly won't be enthusiastic about staying late, but what you can do (if you want to) is accept it. Performing an act when you are in a state of acceptance means that you are at peace while you do it. That peace, is a subtle energy vibration that then flows into what you do.
You may be thinking, 'But by surrendering I'm not doing anything to change the situation.' Not true. On the surface, acceptance looks like a passive state, but in reality it is active and creative because it brings something entirely new into this world. What it brings is consciousness. 'For me, consciousness is about being acutely aware of everything,' says Justine Friday, 25, a psychology student who is currently reading A New Earth for the second time. Many changes have occurred in Friday's life as a result of this new awareness. 'I originally studied advertising and have since made a change to psychology. Also, when things get tough in my life I see them as a challenge and don't fall into victim mode. Life has become much richer and I'm thrilled at the thought of how much more exciting it will become.'
What if you're not enjoying what you are doing and, no matter how hard you try, you can't bring acceptance to it? The answer is simple: stop what you are doing. If you don't, you are not taking responsibility for 'the only thing you can really take responsibility for, which also happens to be the one thing that really matters: your state of consciousness'. And if you are not taking responsibility for your state of consciousness, you are not taking responsibility for your life.
The peace that comes with accepting what you are doing transforms into a sense of aliveness when you are also enjoying it. Okay, but if you're not enjoying what you're doing, how do you suddenly switch yourself over to your 'enjoyment' setting? Sometimes it can simply be a question of deciding to enjoy it. People don't realize the power they have in making a choice. Every day we make thousands of unconscious decisions, many of which have the cumulative effect of making us feel bad. But if you consciously make the decision to be different - to make a difference in your own life - the results can be remarkable.
You can enjoy any activity in which you are fully present, if the activity is not simply a means to an end. The trick is not to ask your mind for permission. All you'll get is plenty of reasons why you can't enjoy it. ‘Not now,’ the mind will say. ‘Can't you see I'm busy? There's no time. Maybe tomorrow you can start enjoying....’
We need to learn the art of consulting the mind (because logic certainly has its place) but to realize that it's only part of a decision-making process. For most people this process is based on what they want. They want a pay increase or a sexier car or a better body. But the motivating force behind our actions should actually be enjoyment - enjoyment of the present moment. When you make the present moment, instead of past and future, the focal point of your life, your ability to enjoy what you do - and with it the quality of your life - increases dramatically. In other words, you don't need to wait for something meaningful to come into your life so that you can finally enjoy what you do - there is enough (more than enough, actually) meaning in enjoyment. Could it really be that simple?
For Friday it was. She was working in an unfulfilling office job. ‘I made the decision to stop wishing I wasn't there and to accept that I would be there until the end of the year. Suddenly I began to enjoy myself. The difference was so remarkable it was as though I had started a new job.'
This 'waiting to start living' syndrome is endemic to our society. It's a side effect of living in an unconscious state. If I can just get the boyfriend/ dream job/figure, then I will be happy. But to start living only once you have those things you are dreaming about is a denial of everything you may already have.
When enjoyment of what you are doing is combined with a clear sense of what you are working towards, you feel enthusiasm. This is the third modality of awakened doing.
At the height of creative activity fuelled by enthusiasm there will be enormous intensity and energy behind what you do. To someone else, this may make you seem stressed. You are anything but. We become stressed when we want to arrive at a goal more than we want to be doing what we are doing. We want something, so we struggle to get it. We may get what we want through hard work and stress but chances are high we'll almost kill ourselves to get there. Stress reduces the quality and effectiveness of what we do. It is toxic to our bodies and is linked to anxiety and anger. Enthusiasm, though, has nothing to do with stress, because even though you have a goal, what you are doing in the present moment remains the focal point of your attention.
It's important to remember, that your vision or goal is not an inflated image of yourself - for example, wanting to become a famous musician, writer or actor, or a wealthy entrepreneur. You should also make sure that your goal isn't focused on having this or that, such as a holiday home overlooking Clifton, your own company or $10-million in the bank.
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