Apparently the Present is our only home but we are hardly ever there! Fancy that, not making use of your most sacred place. Recently, I was forced into considering the NOW and its rich pleasures on a long weekend in the Cederberg Wilderness area. Being a virtual action maniac, I had an accident hiking to the well known Wolf Arch. All fundis of this beautiful area knows about the notorious Wolf Cracks and the difficulty in traversing up the third crack.
The Wolf Cracks are 3 immense cracks in the spectacular Wolf Mountain, a daunting 1300 metres scramble from the bottom. It is situated on the Dwarsrivier farm. One dutifully has to buy a R50 permit at the farm to visit this famous South African nature wonder. I survived the hour long arduous climb with the friend that accompanied me and then dared to use the route into the third Crack in search of adventure and a challenge. It was our plan to walk all the way to the Wolf Arch, another 6 kilometres away, after getting through the Cracks. First we were faced with an extremely dangerous and high ledge on which one had to hurl yourself on; then one had to traverse tentatively with one’s back towards the gaping precipice on the narrow ledge of the cliff. Once inside the crack we followed the footsteps of previous climbers. Nothing seemed familiar in the dark cave interior of the crack. Having completed the route some 17 years back with friends, I could only vaguely recall the narrow tunnel like opening where my then companion tore his trousers in his effort to squeeze through the gap.
This time we walked through vast eerie chambers until suddenly we were confronted with a huge rock which I had no recollection of. I found out later that this rock had relocated due to a landslide. I was now forced to make the decision to continue into the unknown or to turn back. I felt my only decision was to turn back for our own safety. We could rather go through the second and more accessible crack. On returning in the dark of the narrow cave like tunnels connecting the chambers my friend slipped down a rock and chafed her knee. This unnerved me somewhat and I started to panic in order to get out. In the dark, using a headlight, I did not see the hole in front of a big rock. I fell; hurting my right knee quite badly with the sudden jerk. Fortunately we managed to retrace our steps and were thankful to get through the second crack to make our way to the Wolf Arch. Needless to say, after hiking to the arch and back some 12 kilometres, plus descending down the steep climb again, my knee was pretty swollen and really poorly. The next day I was a real crock and could only limp around. I realized I needed to rest my injured knee. I went to borrow a walking stick from the farm house on Krom Rivier for the weekend.
Having no prospects of a cycle ride or a swim in the river, I had to consider the BIG NOW; how to sit still and to really enjoy the present moment. Too often we are chasing the future and thinking about what we are going to do instead of what we are doing now. Eckhart Tolle reminds us that nobody has discovered the future yet; nobody has managed to stick their flag on it. So it does not, technically speaking, exist! When we eat an apple, are we just eating the apple or are we already thinking about the cup of tea we are going to have afterwards? If we go to work in the morning, our whole schedule is planned ahead. Do we enjoy being alive and being able to execute our duties? No, often not. We have frustrations with colleagues, with technical breakdowns and equipment not working perfectly especially the (ubiquitous) desk top computer.
I am still trying to master the Wu Wei code. This Buddhist term means that we accept the moment spontaneously as it arises. We do not fight it, we do not resist it; that is just how it is! Once we can master this attitude we should be more at peace and acknowledge the present moment whatever it presents. This naturally means we have no attachment to certain outcomes! Not so easy in our driven society. Even Krisnamurti, the great Eastern sage, calls his secret just that: “This is my secret, I don’t mind what happens.” Surely we will have fewer frustrations if we can ascribe to his wise philosophy.
Another modern day international teacher, Dr Bruce Lipton, says that the secret of life is to harness the mind to promote growth. Not being in growth mode, normally signifies living in fear; fear of a future that in actual fact does not exist! Our cells feel our feelings within us. They respond to our thought processes; our body responds to our thoughts. To feed our cells with fear, means that they will contract and not expand. Only when we are positive in our thinking processes, will the cells function optimally. They will answer the call for optimism and will regenerate and become healthier.
I was also confronted by my inability to remember the route through the third crack. Our memory sometimes gets vague and we paint our own picture of the past. The past is then of our own creation and bears little resemblance to what actually happened. So the past is more of our own creation and not true to facts. This renders it in reality a bit of an invented story depending on our perception. So with a future that is not there and a past that is unreal we are only left with the PRESENT. The present is tangible and real and true.
Experiencing love and being in love is also a great teacher of staying in the moment. Meeting my life partner a year ago, has really taught me the fruits and joys of being in the moment. One has to resist that fear mode which says what will happen if I lose this? To savour the vibrant togetherness, to enjoy the camaraderie so yearned for during my hard competitive athletics days, still stays a real challenge.
So if the culprit the future does not exist and the past is unreal, should we not be more content and peaceful in the present? Should we not look at nature and see its example? All around us nature is in an ever creative mode, always growing or flowering; it has been like this for centuries. There is an essentially bigger Force than us at work. Elements of the great epic futuristic movie Avatar spring to mind. On the planet Pandora they still honoured the great works of Spirit. They trusted in this greater power and the lead character’s prayers were answered. In the end all of the creatures on the planet united with the population of Pandora to defeat the invaders that came from earth. The spiritual outlook of the Pandora people was in complete contrast to the greedy, materialistic attitude of the invaders where there was no regard for the beauty of nature they were destroying nor for the harm they were doing to the harmonious family life of the planet’s inhabitants.
Coming back to the present can help us to realize the richness of normal existence where there is not a constant compulsion to acquire things. Without fear of the nonexistent future, with no regrets about the unreal past; we can really only enjoy the gifts of the moment, of the ever present NOW!
Dr Sibis Mouton is a practicing behavioural kinesiologist and ex-world champion in the Ironman distance. She facilitates the ZEST4LIFE courses in Cape Town, South Africa, at Quest in Devon, England and on Mahe island in the Seychelles. For more info visit www.zest4life.co.za or email firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was published in Odyssey Magazine, Issue 2, 2012,pg 22 – 24, under the title “Pursuing Presence”