“If you struggle with being present in the now, you will struggle with life.” – Eckhart Tolle
We all know one or two people that are genuinely happy and love their lives. It’s not that they have everything all figured out, but they always seem to be fully present in whatever they are doing and always thoroughly enjoying themselves.
It’s common for most of us to find ourselves out at certain events and be thinking about other things. We think about what else we should be doing, where else we should be. We think about the past. We get anxious about things that haven’t happened yet, but so often we are never where we should be, which is where we are at that moment.
Everyone’s life is a work in progress and we all struggle at different stages of our journey. Being present is one of my biggest hurdles. My mind is always in 10 different places all at once. Even when I was a little girl, my report cards would always have comments like, “Savannah has difficulty focusing on her tasks. She often daydreams…” And it hasn’t stopped, as an adult I’m still day dreaming, my head is always in the clouds. I’m the consummate thinker, philosopher, always asking questions and always searching.
“This one, a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away… to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. What he was doing.” – Yoda
When trying to understand why most of us have such difficulty living in the present it’s important to understand what’s really going on inside of us. It’s the ego’s job to make sure that your identity is tied to material things, it wants you to compare yourself to others, it wants you to constantly be in a state of lacking and wanting more. It wants you to believe that you are separate.
But the truth is, as Tolle describes it, in The Power of Now, that inside all of us is an observer. Now a lot of you will tune out at this point and say, “Sav this is just too new age for me,” but follow this a little longer. If you don’t believe that there is an observer inside of you, sit still for a moment and just focus on your breathing. Concentrate on the air going in and out. Now in your mind have your little voice say, “Hey, what’s up?” Notice that you are not that voice, you are the observer of that voice.
This is the little voice that always takes you places that you don’t want to go. It leads you to hurt, it says mean things to you, it reminds you of hurtful, humiliating things that have happened in the past, it makes you anxious and fearful about the future. Once you recognize that you are not this voice, you realize that you don’t have to follow where it wants to go. It’s the observer who is really in charge here – not the ego.
You can watch the ego: seek out things, have cravings, dwell in the past, be fearful of the future, but none of it is who you are. Tolle says that an awareness of the observer is akin to enlightenment and enlightenment is peeling back the ego – peeling back the hurt, peeling back the pain, peeling back who you think you are, peeling back your thoughts, peeling back this physical body, peeling back your fears and what is left is the observer – that part of you that never changes. It is the silence. It is peace. It is joy, it is love, it is your true essence.
When you are craving that piece of pie you know you shouldn’t have, pay attention to who or what is doing the craving. It’s that little voice. The ego is always trying to fill some mystery void that it’s trying to convince you exists. If you allowed the observer to be present, you would realize that it doesn’t have any voids, there is no emptiness and it certainly doesn’t need any pie. The observer would be able to see the pie as something harmful. It would feel the effects of the sugar on the physical body and have no interest in it.
Non Acceptance and Time
Tolle tells us that the route of all suffering is non acceptance of what is. There is a lot of truth in the now infamous quote from the Secret, “What you resist persists.” If you are struggling with the pain of a break up, what you are really struggling with, is accepting the reality of what is. That’s what is causing all the pain. If we could accept it, it would no longer be able to cause us any pain. The more we fight the reality of the situation, the more pain we bring to ourselves.
Being the observer means to be watchful, to be present, to be conscious and to be aware. When we become aware, we can see that someone rejecting us is just a signal for change. It’s the ego that wants to tie your identity to another person. The ego wants you to be dependent on people and things. It wants you to hang on tight, rather than let go and just allow what is.
A lot of people find themselves waiting for something. We’re waiting for just the right time, just the right circumstances to line up before we take action, or do anything. In essence we’re waiting for some magical moment in the future, when we perceive things will be better and then we can allow ourselves to enjoy the present moment and truly live.
“Waiting is a state of mind, basically it means that you want the future, you don’t want the present. You don’t want what you’ve got and you want what you haven’t got. With every kind of waiting you unconsciously create inner conflict between your here and now – where you don’t want to be and the projected future where you want to be. This greatly reduces the quality of your life by making you lose the present.” Eckhart Tolle
When we have an awareness that the present moment is all there is, all there ever is, then we stop longing for a future where there will just be another present moment. We will stop allowing the past to define us and cause us pain, because in this the present moment we are safe. Being in a state of awareness is to be in a state of allowing. When we experience painful emotions, as the observer, we notice they are there, they are the body’s response to the mind/ego, but allow them to flow through us and except what is, without trying to control the outcome and wish it was any different.
Anytime you run into someone that seems to have a passion for life, their joie de vie seems to be contagious and people seem to gravitate towards them. While they may not all be in a state of enlightenment they do all seem to possess many of the same traits.
Common traits of people that have a passion for life
They are comfortable in their own skin.
They have a healthy self-esteem.
They have a strong support group and many friends.
They have many interests and hobbies.
They have an active social life.
They are optimistic.
They don’t dwell or internalize when things don’t go their way. Troubles just roll off of them like water off a ducks back.
They are fun and like adventure.
They love to laugh and always see the humor in everything – they don’t take themselves or anyone else too seriously.
They are easy going.
They see beauty everywhere.
They have a positive mental attitude towards life.
They believe that they have control over their destiny.
When you don’t derive your identity from your past, or from what you do, when you stop being fearful of the future, and you are comfortable with yourself, when you are able to accept the reality of what is and when you don’t live in fantasy land, when you believe that you are fully competent and fully in charge of your life and your destiny and when you view the world as a happy place with plenty of opportunities and when you don’t let things bother you, the quality of your life is much richer and your choices reflect that.
I think what people who love life have figured out, that the rest of us haven’t, is that when you are in a state of allowing, a state of awareness and living each moment fully, and when you seek joy, happiness and adventure you usually don’t have to look very far, because what you are seeking is usually seeking you too.
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Savannah I want to thank you for all your advise . You helped me for feeling more confident and be more ” just me”. I left my N ( or he left me because I started to put boundaries to him ) before he could take advantage of me ( emotional and financial) after 5 months dating and feeling his shade. I was lucky because my sister talked to me about your articles after i explained her some signals of NPD in my N during Christmas.
Again, thank you very much for all your wise advise.
I am reading all of them everyday again and again . God bless you!!
Thank you so much. This is exactly what I needed.
Dear Savannah, there is no Observer, there is no central figure who is observing…that would only be the mind again!! There is only awareness and an activity of observing!Lol Samira
This isn’t something I just made up. I think Eckart Tolle, Michael A. Singer, Wayne Dyer, Oprah Winfrey and the millions that follow them, would disagree with you. I think you misunderstood the concept. Read Tolle’s The Power of Now. I think the general premise is that that little voice that you are observing is the ego and as someone who is observing the insecurities and frailties of the ego you realize that you are not the ego and that you can in fact control it.
I think this advice is especially important to take in when ending a bad relationship. I’m about a month in of leaving my N, and I’d like to share a story about a conversation I had recently with another friend, about her relationship.
My friend has been with her boyfriend for three years. He is not a N, but definitely has co-dependency issues and exhibits controlling behavior toward her as a result. They break up and get back together constantly, they both fight all the time in public and have earned a reputation as a nightmare couple. Things got so bad that I told my friend I could no longer hang out with the both of them together at the same time, and other people in our circle have stopped inviting them out to parties and events.
The recently had another blow out, and my friend said she had some major decisions to make, and planned on leaving her boyfriend after this birthday. That of course didn’t happen.
We just went out on Friday night, and she said she’s holding out for the opening day of a huge fair that kicks off every summer in our city. And that she’ll leave him after this event.
I couldn’t take it anymore. I pointed out to her that she said the exact same thing in the summer of 2012 and the summer of 2014. Maybe this was mean, but I asked her to stop telling me about her “plans” to leave him, and that she had nothing to prove to me. And that ultimately, there’s NEVER a “good” time to leave someone.
I was guilty of this to an extent with my N, as well. The first time I kicked him out of the house, I let him back in because his birthday was coming up. He did something horrendous to me that following December, but because “it was Christmas” I didn’t leave him.
I left him again, then took him back in because “it was Valentine’s Day.” Then again, when I should have left, I used the fact that we had a dinner coming up as an excuse not to.
I actually used a planned dinner that we had as an excuse to cover up that I was too weak and too scared to leave him. WTF?!
I finally realized I was being ridiculous, woke up and left him for good.
There was a never a good time to do it. I only wish now that I had left him much, much sooner.
I hope everyone here remembers that. Don’t put off leaving your N to tomorrow, the next day, after Christmas, etc.
You just gotta DO IT and seize the moment.
after lots of learning I’m at a point Ive decided to focus now more on me & moving forward. Learning to mediate, got some materials from the library, reading Leave you mind behind, came back here to see if anything new & your on the same topic, look to see if living in the now is available in audio download on my library app & its one of the books I already downloaded just waiting for me to get to. Is that a sign of what path to take or what? TY for this & all your very helpful posts.
I read The Power of Now following a friend’s recommendation and it helped in this long healing process I’ve been through for almost a year now!
I love this article like most of your articles.
Only one thing I am not sure about… I don’t think that having “many” friends is a good point. I know happy people who have few friends. I myself prefer quality over quantity. But well, maybe I am not enlightened 🙂
Thanks for this blog and keep sharing! 🙂
Define many Fran – I didn’t propose a number. The purpose was to indicate that they have several support options.
Love this! I love all your articles I look foward to reading them each week, you are helping me more than you can imagine 🙂
This is lovely, Savannah! Since my Aunt passed away, Christmas Day 2011, I have made it my mantra to “be in the moment” as she always seemed to be.
While I am still a work in progress, I recognized some wonderful tools in this piece, to help me really pull this together and make a “go” of my efforts. Thank you!
I hate to say it, but it seems like a nice fantasy for me. I’m no where near there yet. For example, I need to find a place to live. I pulled up some apartment searches and immediately broke down. Just the fact that I have to plan to live somewhere, that I have to live in the future for a while, I broke down. I definitely don’t derive any enjoyment from what I have to do. But, I have to do it! This in turn triggers me to fall down the black hole all over again.
I used to be just like the list above. I always lived for the day, but still planned for a tomorrow. Maybe some day I’ll get there again, but first I need to move out of the house we share.
Maybe someone can help: Our daughters are coming home for the summer after the college year ends. I want to be here with them while we sell the house. Does that make sense? I don’t want them at home with her while I move out as if I did something wrong. She wanted to sell the house and force my eldest daughter to find a job and apartment without ever coming home. I think that is cruel. Am I mistaken?
Yes, I’m stuck in only thinking about the future. I want to make sure my girls have theirs.
Thanks, and keep up the great work.
I was introduced to Eckhardt Tolle almost 6 years ago while getting sober. He is a strong inspirational motivator. The Power of Now on CD helped me focus on my feet on the ground and not the past or future. “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it is called the present.”
Thank you Savannah.
Nice. These past 3 weeks (since the divorce was final) have felt differently. I have not felt a NEED to tell someone everything. I came to realize that I now feel an acceptance of where I am and I trust my own perception. I feel free to enjoy life. Last evening my daughter and her boyfriend started a bonfire. Not wantint to intrude, I casually strolled by and my daughter told me they were having trouble getting it going, did I have any suggestions? I showed her how to add sticks and branches carefully to get the fuel where it was needed. Then I offered to bring more branches that I had trimmed elsewhere in the yard–and then more from an old pile. So we all worked in the present and together to accomplish the task at hand. And then they were done and went in, and I stayed out for another two hours working with the fire and burning it up so that I could safely go to bed. I did not feel sorry for myself. Instead, when it was nearly done, I sat on the wagon and watched the embers and sparks and stars in they sky and thououghly enjoyed it myself, appreciated my life and remembered how tense it would have been with my exhusband narcisist there. I have grown through the past two years. Yes, I read Tolle, and I think what has happened in the past few weeks is that I am ealizing that it is all coming together and I am able to enjoy te NOW.
@kathy I’m so happy for you! Reading this gives me hope that I too will be able to live in the moment and stop thinking about the past.