The paradox of Now
I am writing from my house in Canggu. Or, more exactly from my house in Umalas, right in the middle between Canggu and Seminyak, in the south of Bali. I live in a soft and peaceful little house, with two roommates and a cute little cat that we like to call Jacques. I started to write this article last month. Honestly, six weeks ago. I left it in a corner of my computer and of my memory. Waiting for a good time to finish it. I have waited, again and again; the good time never came. Not that I don’t have the time. I have a lot of time. Not that I have billions of things to do. I do nothing. I do nothing and it takes all my time. I do nothing is not the exact formulation though. I’d rather say: I build nothing. I am doing a lot of things but nothing that radiates further than the present moment. I spend my time enjoying the now, doing what I want to do in the moment, no appointment, no agenda, no schedule, I wake up every morning and decide what my day will be.
To be in the now, in Bali, isn’t only an aspiration, a life goal that you set yourself or a cool experience for a while. Here, the present moment is rooted in the culture, like a founding principle of life. The present moment is everywhere you go, in everything you do, anytime of the day. It infiltrates you and spreads itself. It is here, in the air that you breathe. It is here, on the faces and in the eyes of the people you meet, in their gait too, their peacefulness and their kindness. I learned in Bali the strength of a look, and the inner stability you must have to look at people in the present moment, exactly where they are and as they are. These looks that make you feel like you exist, looks that don’t judge, don’t question your place, but respect it. I learned in Bali the strength of a smile, to see people and smile, for no reason, simply because we’re alive in the same place and at the same time and that there has never been a better reason to be happy. Without even noticing it, I am living the present moment because this is what everyone is doing around me and because, without any doubt, this is one of the best drugs in the world.
I felt the present moment for the first time in India. I had just got into a touk-touk, alone with myself and my backpack, I had no idea of where I was or of where I was going, and it didn’t matter at all. The wind in my hair. My reflection in the rear-view mirror. And this strange feeling of infinite gratitude. The relief. The absolute and total relief. I felt like I had got rid of a huge weight. My weight, literally. In a few seconds, I felt so free and so light that it hurt. How could I have missed out on that for so long?
Everywhere, from that moment, I tried to feel that again. I hunted the present moment everyday, in my everyday life, in every one of my travels, in every one of my achievements. I wanted to feel that again and again and again. And in a way, this is exactly what I have found by coming to live in Bali. To live in the now. To live in the now all the time.
Of course, we all have lived short-lived present moments. Like in my touk-touk in India. I am sure that you have felt this already. The present moment who imposes itself. In front of a wonderful sunset, up on a hill or lost in the middle of a forest, a walk on the beach, jumping out of a plane, giggling, kissing the person you love. The list is long. But I am not talking about the short-lived present moments. I am talking about the present moment all the time. Everyday, in all that you do, in all that you are. To live only in the present.
The present moment, contrary to what we could think, is difficult to apprehend and to understand. When it doesn’t impose itself, it is quite difficult to achieve. It is generally not enough to stop everything you’re doing and just to enjoy the moment. The present moment is not tangible. It cannot really be described or written. It is probably different for every one of us. It cannot be claimed, it cannot be planned, it cannot be ordered. The present moment is not in the head. It has nothing to do with the intellectual, the thoughts or the thinking. The present moment is played somewhere else, inside of us. The present moment is felt. And this is the most important. The present moment is a feeling. And nobody had never been able to predict, provoke, or even control feelings.
It took me a certain time to understand it. The simplest things in life are often the most difficult to apprehend. It took me a certain time to understand that the present moment is, as a concept, pretty paradoxal.
By definition, to live in the now means that you’re not living in the past nor the future. To live in the now means that you’re comfortable with your past and calm about your future. It means that, on one hand, you have done the work to clear out your emotional and psychologic closet from the past; and on the other hand, that you know yourself enough to know exactly where you want to go in the future. To live in the now is, actually, the Holy Grail of the self-work.
I am not going to talk about the past, what we keep from our past is intimate and often complicated. And, the past is past. I let you do your introspection. I am going to talk about the future, because this is where there is all to be done.
Like you I guess, I didn’t grow up in the present moment culture. I’ve be taught to build, to work now and enjoy later, to secure my future. My brain is still used to think about what’s coming next. Continuously, he asked me the same question: Eh Camille, what will you do after?
Often, I feel guilty. I see the time as an enemy. It flies and flies. It doesn’t even take the trouble to warn me. Often, I evaluate. I need to build timeline in my head. What have I done, when and why. Have I been effective? Have I moved forward to my goal? Am I getting closer and closer to the realization of my dreams? What obstacles have I encountered, how did they slowed me down, could have I done better? I don’t give myself any respite. I am harsh and demanding. Balinese people have an unwavering faith, a spirituality that is extremely strong, it looks like they’re never questioning anything, they are convinced that they are living exactly what they are supposed to live. But we, western people, we keep having dreams to achieve, this need to make sense and this inexorable wish to leave a mark. So I am wondering: Will live the present moment all the time, in all that I do and all that I am, let me achieve my dreams? Does the sum of present moments give a happy future?
I think it does. I think it does if and only if we guide our present moments in the right direction. If and only if we know ourselves enough to, unconsciously, at every moment, keep moving forward on the way of our achievements. It’s a form of the attraction law. If inside of you, you know what you want to achieve and you believe in it, then everything inside of you, what you do, what you think, what you say, the people you hang out with, the decisions you make, everything inside of you will guide you to your achievements. You don’t even need to think about it or to plan it. Your subconscious takes care of you, at every second. If you’re clear with yourself, you just have to have faith, it takes care of it all.
I’ve been to many talks on personal development these last months. And I was surprised to notice that the speakers were always starting by asking the same questions: what would you like to have achieved in five years, where do you see yourself in three years, what would you feel if you had achieved all that you want to achieve, what are your dreams, why are they your dreams, what is stopping you to achieve them. In other words, who are you and where do you want to go.
Finally, I would say that the sum of the present moments will give a happy future if and only if you know yourself enough to know who you are and where you want to go. The starting point and the direction. In fact, this is vectorial. If you have the starting point and the direction, then it’s not possible to be mistaken. You will be able to live in the now all the time, at every second, and you’ll always reach your destination.
Work on finding your starting point and your direction. And after that, enjoy the journey.
With all my love,