It was an unusually warm winter day, the first day of the new month that will bring spring. The sun was shining causing the buildings in Manhattan to sparkle. Although it was rush hour, the train was not standing room only and there didn’t seem to be the same buzz as everyone trekked up the 3 flights to the street as I remembered. It seemed calmer than remembered. It was definitely quieter, both on the train and on the sidewalks. Why?
Most people were not engaging with each other, they were looking at their phone. They had headsets or earbuds and were listening to music, meditations, books, or other people, they were not engaging with each other or the immediate world around them.
I exited the train station and began my four block trek up town and then 6 block trek across town to my workshop. The warmth of the sun on my face reminded me of just the week before being in Florida, the noises of the trucks and the horns snapped me back to the realities of New York City. I walked with wonder as if it were the first time to observe the people, sites, sounds of the city. I walked casually not with fervor as I was early for my meeting. I could smell coffee, and bagels toasting as I walked past a very crowded breakfast joint. I could hear people singing and having conversations with street vendors about whatever they wanted to buy. What was surprising to me however was that I was one of the few who seemed to be an observer, everyone else was glued to a phone, or earbuds and not looking around at all, or so it seemed. I also didn’t see smiles or looks of happiness; I saw stress on faces and looks of anger or sadness. Now none of these observations I know are absolute, I have no idea what people are thinking or feeling, this is just how it appeared to me.
My thoughts began to wander reminding me of Eckhart Tolle’s book, “The Power of Now.” Early in his book he speaks about how consciousness is a way out of the pain.
Nobody’s life is entirely free of pain and sorrow. Isn’t it a question of learning to live with them rather than trying to avoid them? The greater part of human pain is unnecessary. It is self-created as long as the unobserved mind runs your life.
He speaks to the mind needing control and therefore it needs time, the past and the future. The mind isn’t in control when we are in the present. We cannot miss or feel sorrow about the past when we are in the present. We also cannot be fearful or anxious about the future if we are in the present. He speaks to making the Now, the present, the primary focus of your life to be free from creating pain.
This is not easy to do for most and certainly hard to sustain. I am finding that no longer working in corporate is helping some of this as corporate America is always reliving the past or planning for the future. It is rarely in the present. I am also realizing that meditation is the way to focus at least for a few minutes per day in the present. Eckhart also speaks to past pain and how it lives inside of us. Many of us only have it triggered or active 10 or so per cent of the time. Deeply unhappy people have it active closer to 90% of the time. This pain survives as long as we are unconscious about it, as long as we are fearful of facing that pain inside. If we don’t face it, we don’t bring it into the light, learn from it and let it go. Again, you have to feel it to heal it!
As I walked down the street watching everyone in their worlds, not observing the world around them in wonderment, not interacting with others I wondered if I was the only one who was consciously trying to interact with the environment in the now. Was everyone else hiding their pain and not fully present so they didn’t need to feel?
I cannot answer that of course, but it made me think about what I do and what I want to do. I liked walking down the street taking in the sounds, the smells, thinking about my day and not harboring thoughts about the past or anxiety about the future. I began to think about how I allow the pain of the past to dictate my life from time to time. I thought about how worrying about the future allowed for all of those fears that I felt in Florida. I remembered the acronym of fear that I wrote about a few years ago, False Expectations Appearing Real. I have had so many moments of late where my expectations were not based in reality and I thought they were which in turn created anxiety or anger in me. And at times I took that anger out on another person who was not living up to my expectations. Those expectations that were not real. They were based on real conversations and real comments, but they still were unfair expectations.
My walk in New York City allowed me to remember that there is great power in the Now, in the present. It gave me an ah-ha moment about a relationship and expectations that I needed to work on and it allowed me to be an observer of the present.
In those moments, I realized what power there is in the now.