The inspiration to write this article came from a comment by Cihan on one of my previous writings “How to slow down thoughts”. Thanks Cihan.
Many people who are on the path of liberation often practice the technique of “Staying in the Now” or staying present. It’s important to understand that this practice is meant to be a “medicine” not a permanent diet. If you start using a medicine as your diet, it won’t be long before the medicine starts harming your body. A medicine is only supposed to be taken to cure an anomaly, to bring some balance, after that you need to let go of the medicine and not continue taking it as a diet.
The purpose of the practice is just to awaken your consciousness
The practice of staying present is only required for a short duration (a few months) to help you become “conscious”, or to give you a perspective beyond the mind. Once you get conscious it’s like an awakening, like waking up from a trance, after that there is no real purpose in continuing this practice of “Staying present” (or staying with your attention in the Now). Let go of this practice once it has accomplished what it was meant to accomplish, which was to wake you from being in the mind’s trance.
Usually within a few months of practicing “staying present”, your consciousness would have sufficiently woken up from the trance of the mind. When consciousness moves out of the mind, it suddenly becomes aware of itself. In other words, awareness becomes aware of itself as pure awareness, without needing any thoughts or memory for its identity. If you start “witnessing” the mind, it means that your consciousness has woken up from the mind. Once consciousness wakes up, it starts moving in automatically and starts dissociating from the mind’s trance (it can take a year or may be more before consciousness completely dissociates with the false self).
With the practice of “staying present”, you will no longer be dragged “unconsciously” by the thoughts in your mind, but that does not mean that the mind stops dragging you around so soon. It’s just that now the “dragging around” happens “consciously”, you are now aware that the mind is pulling you around – this is a phase of waking up. After this, it’s only a matter of time before your awareness sees through the strategies of the mind and thus becomes free of its influence altogether.
Don’t be too hard on yourself
The mind has a huge momentum. You have been identified with the mind for several years now, and so it has a huge forward force and attraction. If you expect to be free of mind in a few weeks time, then you are just being “unrealistic”. It’s true that some people have become free of their mind in a sudden jolt, in a day, but these instances are highly rare and in fact need a terrible “shock”, or tremendous suffering, to happen.
The most normal way that process of “liberation” proceeds is that you become free of the mind in phases, slowly but surely. It can take close to a year or even slightly more, before you can get to a place where the conditioned mind loses its influence over consciousness.
The only part where you are involved is the first step, where you make the effort to wake up consciousness. Practices like – Staying present, staying aware of the Now, focusing on your body and moving your attention away from the mind, are all techniques that cause consciousness to wake up from the mind’s trance. Once consciousness has woken up, it will start taking control and then the “Me” force is toast. The personal will starts ebbing away once consciousness starts taking over. Just let it happen.
Letting go of trying to stay in the Now
There will come a time when you must let go of all practices. Remember that all techniques, and practices, need the personal will. The goal of liberation is to be free of the personal will and not to enhance it in any way. Of course the personal will is needed initially to do the practice of staying present, but once consciousness wakes up, its time for the personal will to make its exit graciously.
Don’t make “staying present” as a permanent practice. It can start suffocating you and make you feel highly unnatural. All practices have their time and place, but sooner or later you will have to let go of them and relax into the natural flow of life by letting go of all control.
Anything within you that wants to “control” has to be let go of. The whole process is about “letting go”, it’s not about becoming good at a practice, its not about accomplishing the fear of staying in the now, its not achieving more control of the mind. The process of liberation is about letting go completely of all control, only then can the movement of life take over, only then can your natural expression start flowering through.
Are you ready to let go of control and experience the liberation that comes from embracing the “unknown”? Life will present itself to you in all its grace only when you are willing to let go of the “known”, of the conditioned mind, and embrace the pure innocence of the mystery that life is, embrace the “uncertainty”, the unknown, fully and completely. This is what “letting go” really means.