On the Way to Grace . . . Be Here Now

by Diana Rankin

 

 

We wear a lot of different hats in our lives—living mini lives within our bigger life; lives that make up the fullness of who we are—mother or father, wife or husband, daughter or son, employee or employer, housekeeper and gardener, caretaker of  children/pets/parents. We need our appointment books and electronic calendars to remind us of where we need to be when, what task we need to be attending to at any given time. It seems to me with so much going on the only way we can exist with any amount of sanity is to stay in the present moment—to be here NOW.

“Be here now,” the phrase coined to represent being fully present and engaged in your life by Ram Dass back in 1971 in his book with the same title— Be Here Now. It was a good book then. It’s still a good book. I’m on my second copy, the first, with its tattered edges and worn pages, long since gone to someone else’s bookshelf. I no longer remember to whom I gave the book, but I always remembered the book, so a dozen years or so ago I picked up another copy. It doesn’t have as much character. It’s edges aren’t tattered nor are the pages worn. I haven’t needed the book to remind me to stay in the now the way I did when I was younger. As I’ve grown older, I’ve grown and becom

e more adapt at reminding myself to stay present. But I remember, oh how I remember, that first copy of Ram Dass’ book and the revelation it was to me.

I was a part-time hippie then. I lived in California. And I was a seeker. By day I put on my corporate suit and wrote copy for a small publishing firm. We s

pecialized in books on marketing and how to make money. Napolean Hill’s book Think and Grow Rich had a big influence on us. He wasn’t one of our authors. Mainly we published the owner’s books and his theories on how to market products to the masses. It was a fun job with an office full of friends. The owner, who taught part time at a couple California universities, even had me fill in for him on occasion because I had taught school for a couple years in Ohio before I became a part-time hippie and headed off to California. The owner didn’t know I was a hippie. Had he known, he never would have let me stand in front of his students—half of who were older than me and the other half who looked older—and impart to them the information I had memorized from reading his books.

I got fully into teaching, the same way I got into the writing. Both activities required of me to be completely present in the now, but at the time I didn’t realize this being fully present in the moment was what Ram Dass was talking about. I was still trying to figure all that out, so it was the weekends I lived for—the long days when we jumped on the motorcycles and flew along the California freeways, stopping at friends or the homes of people we met on the road. We didn’t need much sleep. We were young. We’d spend the night passing joints while words poured forth an

d our minds—if somewhat stoned—were filled with new expressions and concepts we were certain no one else had ever thought of. I’m sure some of our ideas were slightly delusional in our marijuana-filled psyche, but some of our thoughts were . . . well . . . deep and full of exploration of human potential. That’s where Ram Dass and Be Here Now come in.

It was a new concept, and we latched on. We dug in, lit another joint, and analyzed every word. How can you plan for a future and be here now? What about yesterday’s memories? If I’m sitting here now and only thinking about my big toe, does that mean I’m here now? Am I here now if I’m thinking? Is being here now beyond thinking? Is it just experiencing? “Hey man, let it go, let it all go. That’s being here now.”

It’s only now—so many years later I don’t want to think about it—that I realize how much time we did spend in the now, in the present moment. In the moments of our analyzing and arguing, we were alive in the moment. In our gliding down the freeway on two wheels, we were living in the now. In the time we spent touching the minds and hearts and bodies of each other, we were fully present in the now. In the time I spent writing and teaching, I was fully en

gaged in each moment. It was only when we stopped living and tried to be in the now that we failed. It was only when we stopped engaging the fullness of who we were in that moment of time that we stopped being in the now.

I didn’t realize that then, didn’t realize that being in the now is being fully engaged with your life in the moment, regardless of what that moment brings. We spend much of our lives in the now. Life forces us to. It forces us when we are blowing kisses on a child’s tears, when we are answering the questions of a student, when a car is coming at us on the wrong side of the road, when we twist an ankle on steps and need to right ourselves, when we are awed by a sunset, when. . . when . . . in a thousand ways life forces us to be present in the moment, to be here now. And when life is not forcing us to be in the nowit allows us to be in the now if we accept the gift of the present moment—each and every moment.

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