For a while I have been residing with two, well-worn nemeses, the past and the future. I am deliberate in my use of the terms future and past rather than a specific moment, incident, or person for what keeps the past and future ever present is what Deepak Chopra calls “the conditioned response” or the known.
Each one of us has a myriad of conditioned responses for every situation that arises. Regardless of whether or not there is a replica of a particular situation, the mind enthusiastically emits a thought barrage of past experience and future possibility. Both future and past are attached to what happened or what might happen but not to the moment that is. Living in the moment is the unknown, free from past or future.
Essentially, every moment is free. We choose between the known and the unknown, between what we have always been and what we have never been. It is that basic. What is not free is the situation surrounding each and every moment.
Situations reside in the past or in the future–they have strings–and where there is attachment, there is ego, a constant chatter of what you already know. Only when we practice what Chopra calls “choice less awareness” (Moksha), are we in the unknown of the moment and truly free. It takes a lifetime of practice and ceaseless awareness.
For without awareness, we get comfortable and our practice becomes what we know and not what is. Increasingly, my enthusiasm was on the wane, whether for the revision of my novel or for my nonfiction manuscript on consciousness. While I love what I am doing, I could not deny a familiar tug of weariness. Briefly, even the malaise of lupus loomed as I turned more and more to the known of the past.
Mindless television is a tried-and-true response of mine to whenever “the world is too much with us” (William Wordsworth). Some would argue that I could not have picked a better time than the broadcasting of the two major political conventions in the United States. There may be something to that. For completely opposite reasons, both conventions made me weep but as I reached my saturation point for both weeping and politics, I discovered my enthusiasm for republic and democracy. Both are messy, completely life-like, wherein lies the sliver that is hope.
No matter the moment of life, hope is always the light of the unknown and may be the heart of risk as well. In hope lies enthusiasm, the total immersion into life, “the ripple that follows the stone…[as] we are each faced with the endless and repeatable task of discovering or uncovering our enthusiasm, which means in essence being at one with the energy of God or the divine” (Mark Nepo). Not surprisingly, God and the divine are within the political whirlwind of the United States while the world watches.
Regardless of how we perceive our relationship to one another–Einstein’s “spooky action at a distance,” the Tao, the Universe, the Source or quantum physics–we are all connected to consciousness, which is so much more than a mere pinprick of light. Consciousness connects us to existence, transcending all we have ever known; it moves our heads under our hearts so we may hear one another. When we listen, we observe. We make a response within the moment.
In observing the political conventions I listened, dropping my decades-long conditioned response of ranting and raving. Rather, I was grateful for living in a republic brave enough to reveal the messiness of its democracy to the world, at considerable risk perhaps. I immersed myself into the enthusiasm that is the noise of life, the unpredictable but eternal moment.
It is such a small step from the known to the unknown. In the unknown resides the “choice less” awareness that is the freedom inherent in risk, the heartbeat of hope. It is neither the past nor the future but only the moment, which is all we ever have yet is always more than enough as long as we are aware. “Despite our endless limitations, it seems that the qualities of attention, risk, and compassion allow us to be at one with the energy of the whole and the result is enthusiasm, that deep sensation of oneness” (Nepo).
(All Mark Nepo citations appear in The Book of Awakening)