Carry-on Baggage


We hear a lot these days about being present and living in the present moment.  We are reminded that the mind keeps reminiscing about the past and worrying about the future, and that we should endeavor to bring ourselves back to this moment now.

Have you ever wondered why that’s so difficult to do?  Shouldn’t it be the easiest thing in the world to just live in the now?  After all, it’s all that we ever experience in life – we’re always right here, right now.  So why is it so difficult to get the mind to abide in that living presence?

Let’s first look at what does it mean to live in the present moment.  It basically boils down to seeing everything afresh.  We show up every moment with no pre-conceived notions, and no projections, just open curiosity.  When we are with another, we meet them as they are right now, not as we have known them to be or how we imagine them to be or how we expect them to be.  Even in familiar circumstances, we are not closed off in any beliefs about how things should be, but rather in curious anticipation of what is arising.

Against that backdrop, we forget just how much baggage we carry.  Our experience is heavily laden with all kinds of personal narratives, conditioning, identifications, and judgements.  Pre-conceptions and beliefs totally color our experience.  As neuroscience has shown, our minds put together a personal picture of reality that is often distorted or sometimes completely illusory (think of optical illusions for example).  That’s just how the brain compensates for blind spots in the visual field based on what it expects to see; now think about how much mental medley is happening with an egoic framework.

All of this personal baggage anchors us in the past and feeds hopes and fears for the future.  If we are to find presence, we need to set this baggage aside.  Before we see the present moment afresh, we need to see ourselves afresh.  Who would we be without all of these identifications and beliefs?  We can follow this question upstream, all the way back to the witness.  When we find our root awareness, we will have a foundation to perceive the present moment purely.

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