As a young spiritual seeker in India, Richard Alpert (soon to be Baba Ram Dass) was rebuked by Bhagavan Das, an American fellow sadhu, for talking about the past. “Just be here now” said his gentle companion as they walked en route to meet their mutual spiritual master, and Boom! there was the title for Ram Dass’s book that defined a whole generation of young people interested in Eastern spirituality.
Time in the Western conception is a forward-moving phenomena of past feeding into a present that moves toward the future. But other conceptions insist there is but one present moment that contains past-present-future in an ever-cycling now. Our job is let go of our attachment to the past and give up our hopes or worries for the future and just live fully in a blissfully present now, wholly attentive and unfolding from moment to moment in a state of pure being. Like a baby or a Zen master.
Well, it sounded good in college, especially aided by certain controlled substances that helped us tune into a moment with no worries about yesterday’s bad date or tomorrow’s test. And it’s still a good idea to breathe into the present moment with fuller presence and awareness. But meanwhile, we better plan the route to the yoga studio and remember where we put the car keys last night. The actual world we live in demands a pretty astute sense of past and future.
So at the small alum gathering we had tonight, a practice mini-celebration of the school’s 50th (but who’s counting? Just be here now!) year, it was so fun to gather in little circles with alums from 10, 20 and even 30 years ago and remember all the fun stories that we carry with us from that mutual past. (Luckily, Bhagavan Das was not one of the alums or he would have ruined the event with his holier-than-thou “Just be here now” shtick.) Our “being here now” was a fun recollection of our “was there then” and I believe we walked out of the party happier for having remembered.
I’m looking forward to the big 50th party in April. While simultaneously being wholly present in each of the 10,368,000 seconds until that event.