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  • Writer's pictureJ. R. Erickson

Finding Hope in the Now

Years ago I listened to the audio book The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. At the time, I was going through a painful separation and, what ultimately felt like a fracturing of my identity. I discovered Eckhart’s teachings at a time of great darkness in my life and something clicked at his words. I realized that so much of my suffering arose from my preoccupation with the past and the future. I was never in the moment. I was remembering the good times that I’d spent with my then-husband or mourning the future we would never have. It’s a mind-space that’s easy to ignore in day-to-day living. I stopped allowing my mind to ruminate in those spaces. I thought only of this breath and the one after that. I paid attention to the stark white of the snow and the tastes or textures of foods.  I tuned into the sounds of the birds when I hiked in the woods. Our minds love to leave our present experience and travel elsewhere. That can be especially true for writers. We’re always living in an alternate universe. However, during suffering, we’re suddenly very open to a new way of experiencing the world. So I began to do just that.

Fast forward about seven years. I recently realized that I’ve begun to repeat those old patterns: past, future, past, future, ignoring right now so that I could be more fully engaged with what’s coming next. Of course, when that arrives, I won’t be there. Instead, my mind will be on what’s coming after that. Perhaps what really has me pondering all of this is that again I am in a place of suffering. My small, individual life is happy, but I have several family members battling terminal and mental illnesses. I find myself regularly sitting in a place of worry for their futures. I can spend hours talking about the fears surrounding their current realities. After those conversations I go to bed feeling hopeless and filled with fear for the future. I’m not present for my son twirling in the living room, my husband singing to the cat and the glowing pink sky as the sun sets over the trees.

That said, change begins with awareness. I’m slowly coming back to my breath, moment by moment. I am paying attention to the sensations in my body. Each time I begin to think about a future that has not yet arrived, I return to this moment right now and I remember that this second is my life.

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