By Frances McGonigle, August 2023
It's not necessarily obvious, the way time creeps up on us, replays, drags or speeds by, but only the present moment exists. The past has been lived and is either consigned to recent memory or archived somewhere in the unconscious. The future has not yet materialised, so is subject to change, no matter how robust the plans we've put in place (look at how Covid-19 altered the course of billions of lives). Everything is in a state of continual motion: of transformation, renewal or decay. In Nature and astronomically this is defined in seasons and cycles. In human terms, mechanical time helps us keep track, maintaining a semblance of order. But, in effect, we can't harness time, as if it were some great bull in the chaos of a cosmic china shop. It has no shape, limitations or boundaries. It's intrinsic to Space and the moving parts there within: the light waves and elements, for example, which are essential to the flow of life here on Earth. However, it's possible to reframe how we consider our own time, making a start in the 'here and the now'.
To live in the Now is a spiritual practice, far removed from the immediacy of today's modern lifestyles. It means to be wholly present, neither worrying about the future nor dwelling on the past, which entails living for each moment, taking things as they come and being mindful, with greater clarity and focus. In his book about spiritual awakening, 'The Power of Now', Eckhart Tolle sums it up when he says, "Life is now. There was never a time when your life was not now, nor will there ever be".
Striving always for what might be in the next moment or allowing the past to infringe on our present thoughts, keeps us in a state of limbo, without living, but being present leads to freedom and peace.
Easier said than done?
We regularly set ourselves up for failure, with impossible 'To Do' lists, goals and desires, and we readily accept actions imposed on us by others (striving annually to meet KPIs, for example). We demand everything "Right now!", consciously or unconsciously entitled, immersed in deep states of mindlessness, of anxious thoughts and impatience, and the insanity of a material world. Mindfulness, on the other hand, is as much about what we aren't doing: what we decline to give space to (the phone, that email, those worries, the News) in favour of something more important, such as health, self-care or giving time to someone else.
Simple steps towards change
I walked barefoot on the grass the day I wrote this. In parts, it was soft or bristly, deep or compacted, warm in the sunshine and cool beneath trees. Crossing a path, the concrete was painful, which made me realise how unnatural it is in comparison to earth… Earth, from which everything comes and to which everything truly belongs. It is said that negative ions from the ground have a positive impact on wellbeing. Much like rubbing a balloon against a jumper before raising your hair with the charge, energy is exchanged when we come into direct contact with Nature. Tree huggers are in touch with this concept, so too animal lovers and people supported by therapy pets. Energetically, we're imbalanced and when we recognise this, taking small steps can help us broach change with less fear.
Remaining grounded is part of the process, essentially "earthing" ourselves in reality to stay balanced. We earth appliances to avoid burnout, so why not ourselves? Being grounded also means not to fly. Humans who practise spirituality will appreciate the need to stay grounded, to avoid off-kilter energy and egoic behaviour, as well as a disconnect from the rest of the world. To be grounded also conjures images of punishment, although restrictions can help us to take a step back and assess, rather than rushing headlong into the wrong kind of things.
Grounding tools: random acts of kindness without telling a soul; mucking in with menial tasks no matter your 'status'; becoming more self-aware by questioning your part in things; listening more, making an effort to be less competitive towards others; taking responsibility to act, dispensing with pride; recognising when you need help and seeking it out; allowing others to do things for you also... sometimes.
And, just try being present, giving yourself over to the moment, to what you're doing or who's with you, without checking your phone. Be less concerned with tomorrow and what you must buy or sort out; doing less, but doing it wholly and well. Here and now.
As much a mindful experience as it was thought provoking and cathartic, my walk on the grass was a joy. It encouraged a small spurt of creativity, leading to this article… plus the one I'm about to write next...
(c) Frances McGonigle, 2023