One of the goals that I have in meditation is to practice the same mindfulness during every waking minute of my life. It’s going to take a lot of practice for me to get there, because I didn’t live that way as a routine for any portion of my life.
The one exception to that may be during the time that I was developing in my mother's womb. But it’s likely that for the most part from the moment I came out I got caught up in all of the nonsense of ineffective everyday living. What I now realize in the midpoint of my life is that when I bring my attention to the present moment I can see so much further than when I’m distracted and too caught up in whatever’s happening.
The outside world triggers me very easily to be either greedy, defensive, suffering from low self-esteem, or feeling a lack of worthiness. I hold on too much to my historical attachments. I have some bad habits, I get angry, I’m afraid, I’ve become too vulnerable, I’m defenseless, I know it all, I know nothing—the list goes on and on.
I’m trying to change that. I’m now trying to focus and be in the present moment. I’m trying to pay attention to when life is presenting me with the beautiful opportunities that I thought that I wanted in the previous days. It’s amazing how many times I’ve missed my opportunities because I couldn’t see them in front of me. I was expecting the opportunities to be presented to me in very different ways than the ways that they did. Because I was expecting something different, I was missing many opportunities. During those times I wasn’t being thoughtful and I wasn’t being present. I was distracted.
In my writing I keep emphasizing the point of being in the present moment. This was a message that was told to me when I was a teenager. I heard it in my 20s, I heard it when I was in my 30s, I heard it in my 40s. I thought I understood what it meant, but I really didn’t because I wasn’t present. I didn’t have a good sense of the difference between being present and being somewhere else.
Over time it sunk in though: In part because of my age, in part because of graduating to a different stage in life, and in part because of my practicing difficult yoga very religiously. I saw that in yoga classes that if I didn’t give 100% attention and focus to the postures and instruction, I wouldn’t be able to get into the necessary poses. And once I got into the poses, then if I got distracted I would lose my balance, I would lose my breath, I would lose my strength, and would lose interest and not really get the mental benefits.
I had a need to compete with myself and the teacher and the other students. I had a need to be my personal best, and that made me set my heart and mind on concentrating and focusing better. But I didn’t do it because I thought that it would make me a better person. I did it because I wanted to be better at the postures.
The next thing for me to let go of in yoga are certain attachments. The one attachment that's useful for me is that I do go to yoga to keep my body fit and to feel better. I go to yoga to continually remind myself that I have to work at being present at all times: I cannot stop doing that for even one day. If I go away from yoga then I seem to forget the simple lesson. It’s too easy for me to fall back into my old way, which was that being only half present or one quarter present during the daytime when I was awake. Rather than being present, I was dealing with things in a reactive manner and usually reacting from fear.
I wouldn’t expect anyone reading this book for the first time to fully understand exactly what I’m saying. It usually has to be reread and pondered quite a bit before it becomes clear. But there are some small, helpful steps that you can take in the form of basic exercises. One exercise is to do two to three minute meditations throughout the day while you’re doing your ordinary work routines. During that time say to yourself, “I’m going to concentrate. I'm going to observe and open up all my senses and see what’s happening right now.” There’s no end goal to win a jackpot prize for accomplishing this. What you are doing is your building up your strength to concentrate and meditate for longer periods of time.
One of the things that happens to us early on in our practice is that we get distracted easily. We get bored, or feelings come up that get us confused and distracted. We can feel hurt, excited, elated, or fearful. Any number of emotions could come up. We react to those emotions and then we get distracted instead of staying in what we’re doing.
Assume for a moment that whatever job you have right now that you’re either really good at and haven’t gotten paid for it yet or you’re very financially successful because of what you do. But you’re then given the challenge to go work on a construction site moving construction garbage. The job is filthy, dirty, dusty, and physically demanding. There’s dust everywhere and it might be somewhat dangerous. But even a person who is not squeamish would quickly judge the job and the job site as being disgusting. The only benefit at the end of the job is that you might get a paycheck.
In such a situation, you should strive to say to yourself, “My work is my meditation. I’m going to be the best at what I do and I’m going to be completely present. My goal is to be a great worker, and the entire team relies on my attitude and my performance to carry them through the day.
“How long will it be before I recognize all the patterns in the work that I am doing and become so good at it that I will be promoted to Job Foreman? How long will it be before I am relied upon to be the Manager of the company? How long would it take if I concentrate and focus and do a great job before I could become the owner of this company or open my own business?
“How long will it be before I’m content with simply throwing out garbage and not even thinking about the future or what else I can gain? I’m just thinking about the space that I made. I’m trying to get through it with the least amount of suffering and the most amount of learning and derive from it whatever little pleasures I can.”
The Purpose of Meditation by Marcus Antebi
This is what it means to wake up the consciousness. And you can add dozens of little things to that. You can ask yourself how long it would take you to be of service to others. You can ask yourself how long it will be before you can feel gratitude for your life in any given moment. You can ask yourself how long it will be before during a lunch break you can sit with the guys, tell jokes, and make everyone grateful that they have a job and that they’re alive.
I noticed little things. I noticed that five out of 10 people probably don’t really like me. Those five out of 10 hate my face, my tattoos, or both. But I just have to be myself. One day a person who hates me will need me for something. I’ll be there and I will give them my support. And then they may change their point of view about me.
If I’m given the opportunities I will meet many such people with compassion. I will memorize their faces in my brain. They will live in my subconscious until the day I die. Every interaction I have with these people will influence my life. If I help change their consciousness for the better, then they will influence the lives of the people outside of that circle.
Such connections go on infinitely. People who were influenced by my influencers will influence other people. These connections will shape the patterns, rhythms, and future movements of the material world we live in.