I don’t know which came first, Eckhart Tolle or the host of self-help gurus repeating the same mantra—for success, happiness and peace, live in the now— as if the idea rises like the phoenix every morning only to fall back into the cinders at dusk as followers get sucked back into the world of pointless work and worry.
The idea of living in the present is ancient in the orient but comparatively wet-behind-the-ears in the West, where it didn’t get much attention until the nineteen sixties— and even then few people understood the concept.
It’s actually a very beautiful teaching, even if examined critically; if we can stop living in the artificial constructs of our own minds, that is to say within our thoughts (regrets and resentments) about the past and future (worries and wishful thinking), we can experience the peace and power of our only true reality: what we’re experiencing in this moment.
But we need to be careful about how we implement this philosophy. The Mindful Bard is mostly interested in the unfurling of the creative self, and so any attempt to “cut off” any piece of life, including thought constructs, doesn’t quite jibe.
If we were to take all the beauty, truth, and goodness implicit in the statement “live in the now” but then remember that our responses to this moment are founded on the conditioning of the past— including a host of beautiful experiences and epiphanies— as well as on a creative (hopefully positive and proactive) vision of the future, the now can become not a place of exclusion and insularity but rather a place of summing up, a place to stop and eat your provisions, to rest and reflect on the events of the day, to rally yourself for your next great work.
In short, when you enter “the now” (as hopefully you will do often because it really is a form of optimal experience) it will be less of an isolation chamber and more like the mountaintop resting spot of a cowboy watching the sunset, reflecting on his day’s work, and contemplating the folly of the town below, feeling profoundly grateful that he no longer has to be a part of it.