I was introduced to the mindset, “All you really have is NOW” right after I graduated from high school. There was major turmoil happening in the USA. The Vietnam war was devolving to an epic fail. Tense race-relations, economic and women’s issues were like little-fires-everywhere. The optimistic ‘high’ of the 1960’s had crashed into the sobriety-checkpoint of the 1970’s.  The book we were all reading and talking about back then was “Be Here Now”, by Ram Dass (Be Here Now (Paperback) | Sandman Books) Dass’ teachings offered peaceful, dreamy escape from my anxieties. Like staring into a lava lamp while listening to Ravi Shankar. These days? Focusing on the ‘present moment’ doesn’t feel like just a peace-inducing option anymore, but more like a survival response.

A present-moment mindset is an ancient practice; but the late 1970’s was the first time I’d actually tried it on. I was a hot mess: 17 years old and struggling to survive on my deceased mother’s social security pension. I was enrolled in community college, renting a shabby studio apartment, and in a relationship. Nothing felt right. I was insecure and confused, having no idea how to navigate toward a future I couldn’t see, or even imagine. My stress was intense and prolonged.  I was in a depression; drowning in loneliness, worries and fears. Reading Dass’ book helped me see that my life wasn’t as hopeless – in The Now – as I felt it was.

Fast-forward to today, 14 January 2022. I’m well-beyond those days of living on beans and tortillas for weeks. I’m also much more secure in my ability to cope with whatever comes than I’ve ever been. And yet, I feel myself struggling. In a different way. With issues that are definitely beyond my control, polarizing the people around me. How, exactly, is “being here now” going to help me, if I’m really not liking the here-and-now?

Pick any topic that humans around the globe are worried about: food insecurity, violence, politics, Covid, climate change; to name a few. Here in the United States, we can’t agree about how to discuss, let alone fix, clear threats to our collective wellbeing. Yep. That’s the “Here” we are here in. No one trusts anyone else. Especially not the sources we’ve gotten our information from in the past. We’re all self-taught these days:  through word of mouth; the Internet; alternative news sources; or we just make stuff up based on our worldviews.

So… how to keep my health and my sanity, and help others to do the same? For starters, I’ve swapped-out “Be Here Now” for a different book. (Power vs. Force by David R. Hawkins (goodreads.com) I haven’t given up on the importance of focusing on ‘what is’. I’m determined to work-through – not ‘ride-out’ – the extreme discord and chaos. In other words, I’m not passively hanging-out, waiting for things to calm down as I work in my garden and pray. In as many present-moments, throughout the day, as I can thoughtfully handle, I’m going inward. To where my personal strength is. In Hawkins’ book, I’m learning all that I can about real power – personal power – versus force. (There’s quite a bit of ‘force’, and enforcement, in the world right now. But I just don’t feel like that’s the answer.)

I may not be able to, on my own, quickly bring about what I’d like to see happening in the NOW:  people coming together harmoniously and productively. But I’m not ready to give up and head for the hills with my survival gear. I’m not feeling like a ‘victim’. And I know for sure that Living Bravely in this moment doesn’t mean adding to the fear and confusion with my words, thoughts, or actions.

The Present Moment, as it turns out, isn’t about Me right now, it’s about US — choosing to live powerfully in it, together.

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