I live in Dubai so generally everything feels and looks like its fast paced. Your job is demanding and requires your attention 24/7 and the social life around you seems to be non-stop and… possibly take a break? I see it in people and especially the millennials entering the workforce how the “adult” life seems to demand of them energy with maybe lower than usual compensation for their creative efforts. They’re stressing, anxious, unsettled, and typically always running after something or just too hyped up to not want to miss an event happening every single day of the week.
Nobody really teaches us that we are constantly thinking outside the perimeter of the present moment, not until you sit with yourself and try to control the thoughts that seem to look into later than the present moment in which you are sitting in, which is in silence and stillness. We are constantly doing that stillness has become a foreign retrospect of our body – we cannot stay still. I have a colleague that once said that she tried to meditate but was unable to stay still and be at ease for 10 minutes with her still thoughts, which brought up a whole topic over our cosmopolitan lifestyles and whether that is the main cause of a lot of our mental and emotional issues.
There is a saying out there that says, “your worst demons are those that appear in stillness of darkness,” and I would presume that was meant for our subconscious mind. Being present is not as easy as you would say it because most of it requires you to stay still in your mind and not think of should dos and what ifs, always skipping ahead of time. Instead, it requires us to feel the now which is our breath and our physical sensations, and when mastered becomes effortless in our daily life. In other cases, it requires us to face our true self which is, mostly, honest parts of ourselves that are ugly and that are often ignored. In Ayurveda, there is a belief that the mastery of the ‘now’ opens up effortless sequences in the future because it entails surrender and trust in what is happening to your benefit and your purpose, also known as ‘dharma’.
There is a podcast I listen to a lot and is actually a favorite of mine called On Being with Krista Tippett which features amazing conscious people from the realm of literature, arts, wellness, and religion to discuss everything holistic and social philosophy. On one of the episodes, Krista interviews Angel Kyodo, a zen priest of African-American origins, who focuses on teaching the aspects of conscious fulfillment in Taoist tradition. In it, she says that society is so engulfed into its traumas that healing requires the aspect of wholeness. That wholeness is only present when each individual recognizes that the manifestation of trauma in our environment are those reflected in our selves (and humanity obviously needs a lot of work). Flowing through our time now requires that we have a conscious view of our mind and heart and shift it.
A lot of what Kyodo said in the interview resonated so much with me. We should not discredit planning and what we should be preparing for tomorrow, but we are not balancing the act of now. We do not fall still to allow a balance to happen between the now and the second after. Most of our anxieties that deal with stability, schedules, and the rush to figure out our future develops depression that really doesn’t solve any of the pre-existing emotions and when we realize what it is for and how it is formed, it is an obsession over living for the future that is deepening our anxieties. Stability is a subjective manner, scheduling is a capitalist notion, and “figuring out our future” is a 21st century post-industrial social resonance. What being present teaches us is that the future would flow easily if we accept our intuition and trust the process. Change is inevitable.
The ability to be present unfortunately requires practice and a reprogramming to our mental processing. And since you are reading this, I want you to take the time now to check in with yourself and become present and show gratitude for your breath and being. Don’t judge your thoughts. Acknowledge them and allow them to come and go. Then assess if those thoughts were present or something you need to do in the future. For those thoughts that are a further away from now, drift yourself back to the breath. The breath is the primary of presence and now, the only constant as long as you are living.
Nouf AlJahdami is an Emirati creative based in Dubai. Her work expands from theoretical research to essays and art pieces of various mediums. Her prime exploration is within topics of identity, spirituality, culture and developmental politics from the Middle east and Africa for the Western world. You can find her on instagram here.