Under the Streetlamp – August 1 2019

Under the Streetlamp – August 1 2019

Tomorrow’s bills are not the problem. The dissolution of the physical body is not a problem. Loss of Now is the problem, or rather: the core delusion that turns a mere situation, event, or emotion into a personal problem and into suffering. Loss of Now is loss of Being.

Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now

When we give up the now, we are in speculation. Speculation is one of the great banes of modern existence. Thinking about what happened, what’s going to happen, what we need to do about it, what we should have done about it, about him, about her, about ourselves and our problems. All this thinking and all toward one end: to find happiness. 

Speculation is the mind’s way of seeking happiness. 

“If I can just think about [this problem] in just the right way, happiness will be mine.” 

Unfortunately, the mind always is seeking happiness somewhere other than here and now. It is looking in the past or into the future–somewhere other than where I am now, at a time when I am being someone other than who I am now. Someone smarter, thinner, wealthier, more successful, etc. The mind always is looking elsewhere, in spite of the fact that happiness never has been found, in the history of the world, anywhere other than in present moment awareness.

There’s an old story about coming upon a friend under a street lamp, late at night. What’s up? you say. Oh, I’m looking for my keys. You lost your keys? What a shame. Yes, says your friend. Gotta find them or I’m in real trouble. Well, let me help, you say. You dropped them here? Oh, no, says your friend. I dropped them down the street. But there’s no light there.

Seeking happiness in our speculating mind is like this. 

Or if you’d rather, it’s like going to a hardware store and ordering Chinese food. No matter how well you order, or how badly you might want dim sum, you’re never going to find it there.

Our moments of happiness – of bliss, of joy, of contentment – always happen because somehow we have found ourselves in the here and now. Through accident or design, we have stumbled into present moment awareness and experienced what Eckhart Tolle calls the Power of Now. If we want happiness (and who among us doesn’t), then it would be good to practice being here, rather than in some mythic future. It would be good to practice living in the evidence of our senses, rather than in our speculating mind. To find our way to the moment, again and again and again, as often as it takes. At least then we will have a chance of finding happiness.

Today I will insist on being present. When I ask someone how they’re doing, I will listen to their answer. When I order my lunch or my coffee, or make a deposit at the bank, I will notice that I am dealing with another human being and I will take a moment to engage with her. And before I lay my head on my pillow, I will note for myself the places where I was able to be present, as well as the places where perhaps I could have been more so.

Ganesh among the cactus, tintype