Ever since Ram Dass published his seminal work Be Here Now in 1971, the New Age community has talked a lot about being in the present moment. It’s something I strive to accomplish and I give my clients tricks to do the same. But I just returned from a 5 day camping trip in a snowstorm at Big Bend National Park and I have to tell you, this whole “Be Here Now” business is really a privilege that comes with a certain life of leisure.
Think you’re not in the leisure class? Maybe not by American standards, but let’s widen the frame a bit.
Do you have to worry about where your next meal is coming from?
Do you have to be concerned about where and how you will get water?
Do you have to calculate how many hours of daylight are left so you can prepare to be safe for the evening?
Even on my voluntary trip to the Chihuhuan Desert in Big Bend, I noticed that I spent a lot of time thinking about the immediate future. We wanted to have our dinner eaten and cleaned up before dark, so that meant we had to be back at our campsite by this time, which meant we had to be done with our hike by that time, which meant… And how much water did we have left in the truck? Do we need to fill up at the visitor station, 5 miles away?
The irony of this being a relaxing vacation, yet constantly calculating when certain activities would happen was not lost on me. True, I had left behind my larger worries of completing my taxes, signing up for a new health care plan, writing thank you notes to family, planning a grand opening of my newly-rented work space, and the other daily stressors of home life. Here, on this family vacation to the wilderness, I found myself not worried or stressed, but certainly thinking about the hours of each day much more than I do at home.
And it struck me that simply having the luxury of worrying about what will happen in a few months or a few years is a privilege. Millions of people are in survival mode, and their concerns are immediate. They aren’t worried about when to get back to their safe, warm beds. They’re worried about not having a bed.
So what does that have to do with yoga? Well, ultimately, the goal of yoga is to end suffering for all beings. Surprised? Did you think that the goal was touching your toes? Sorry. That’s the easy work.
The hard work comes with the weight of the privilege of being here now. How will you spend your “now”? If you’re fortunate enough that you don’t have to spend the hours of your day providing the necessities of food, water, and shelter for yourself and your loved ones, how will you spend your time? How will being here now ease the suffering of yourself or those near you?