As I was meditating this Valentine’s Day morning I became aware that I was lost in a train of thought. These particular thoughts had to do with a compelling story about what I wanted to do this day. It had easily taken hold during the quiet meditation time—taking advantage of the lack of other stimuli. I had innocently gone along for the ride completely oblivious to anything but the thought stream. The thing is, thinking feels natural. Thinking feels real and immediate.
But it’s not.
Thinking is invariably about something that happened in the past or something being planned for the future. Truth is, when we string together our thoughts, we are creating a fantasy world.
Of course, thinking can be useful in helping us organize, assess and plan. But, no matter how much we want it to, thinking does not bring us to presence. Ever.
Luckily, this morning while sitting I remember I have committed to meditating—to noticing thoughts and bringing my attention back to right now. So I turn the Titanic thinking mind around and bring my attention back to right here.
I engage a trick I’ve learned along the way and ask myself, what else is here right now?
Thoughts are happening. But, what else?
This brings my attention back to the body, back to the senses. The senses can only experience right now. I can only see, hear, feel, smell and taste something that is immediately present. Thus, our senses are an invaluable tool to bringing us to the present—back to presence.
And, as much as the mind balks and our conditioning resists, presence is entirely different—much richer and much more alive—than thinking.
I allow the attention to move away from my thoughts (knowing thoughts will still happen, whether attention is on them or not—it’s what the brain does.)
As I have been taught I turn to one sense at a time. I bring my attention first to sound. Eyes closed, I listen carefully. What sounds are present? I focus my attention only on sound. I hear a slight rustling outside the window. I hear a bird call. I hear the faint sound of breath releasing from my nostrils.
After a bit I turn my attention to touch. What physical sensations are present right now? I feel the mattress beneath me. I notice the blanket resting on my hands, the pillow at my back. I feel the tickle of breath in my nose, my chest rise and fall.
I turn to taste. Are there any tastes present so early this morning? I notice the slightly acidic taste of this morning’s black coffee still remaining in my mouth.
I open my eyes and look innocently at the visual phenomenon before me. What do I see? shapes, colors, a room, a window, my beloved meditating nearby.
I then dissipate attention allowing it to flow to all of the senses at once. I notice how attention naturally moves from one sense to another.
Finally, I let go of naming and labeling and judging things, instead idly noticing when a particular sound phenomenon or visual phenomenon takes precedence.
As I sit in a sensual field of spacious awareness, a stilling happens. There is calm and peace abiding—like being in the eye of a hurricane. This still point feels full and good. There is no grasping or pushing away.
This. Here. Now. Full. Still. Goodness.
This is what I want.
This nurtures my being.
This is why I meditate.
And, dipping into This even for only a moment daily reminds me there is so much more available in each moment than whatever I am thinking. It is infinitely worth it to stop and pay attention and rest in the Sensual Now.