Be present. Live in the moment. Be here and now.
When you read these statements you probably think about that yoga center in your neighborhood that has quotes like these painted all over the walls. Or maybe they remind you of that hipster friend/relative that's just so spiritual that can only talk about karma and chakras and the wondrous energies that blissfully surround us. Or they may bring to mind that vegetarian restaurant that acts as if they were selling peace&harmony potions instead of plain vegetables.
It doesn't seem difficult to agree with the idea that these statements are becoming overused and, therefore, they are losing their original value.
But hey... if you can get over the trivial stuff I just described, these statements are actually still wise words.
Live in the moment.
You see, statements like this are telling us that you should put all your attention and efforts in the present moment, based in the idea that you can actually do nothing about your past (it's gone, you can't change it!) and you can really do nothing with your future (it's not here yet!). You only have this instant, the Now.
With probably the same intention, others say that life is like a journey and that you should pay more attention to the journey itself than to the destination. That you should pay attention to the smaller things in life (how many times have you heard this last one?! A hundred times at least?).
Let's start by saying that life is not a journey. I mean this in the way that life is not about setting a destination and eventually reaching it in the future. Many of us have been told repeatedly how life is about visualizing what you really want, planning the route intelligently and working hard –very hard– to get there. Well... I'm sorry to say that... ehem... life is not like that.
I know this is a full-frontal collision with many of the self-help books out there, and I'm not so cool to go against all those wise writers, so I will soften my claim a bit: seeing life as a journey is maybe valid from a certain perspective, but, you see, putting much –any– importance in the destination is... missing the point.
So, if life is not journey, what's life?
If I kill the life-is-a-journey metaphor, maybe it's fair that I provide an alternative one. So, here it is:
Life is not a journey, life is a dance.
[Credit and thanks to Alan Watts who said it before me]
Life is all about dancing, the kind of dancing where you let go and move your body as you please, regardless of whether you follow the steps or not.
There is no destination, no target, no goals.
Think about it. In a journey, you have an ending station, an "I made it!" place you eventually reach. But in dancing... What is the point of dancing? What's the purpose really? Where does it get you? Why dance at all?
Think with me about this. Think about a time when you let go and you danced. Look at why you did it, at the goal or purpose that made you dance. Why did you dance? Why?
Because. Just because.
You see, there is no other reason, because the whole point of the dancing is the dance itself.
Ok. I made my point. I could stop writing here.
But I feel like elaborating with some essential questions that I have for you: Do you like dancing? Do you ever let go and dance? ... Do you even know how to dance?
This last question was a bit tricky because it assumes you can answer with a 'no' when, in fact, you can't. So first of all, let's be clear about that: you know how to dance. Yes you do. Maybe you don't like the way you dance, you don't like your style or rythm, but you know how to dance. Even if ridiculously, even if you hate it, even if physically limited, you know.
"Ok, I see I can 'dance', but my style is terrible, I'm not good at all". Fair enough, you may feel this way. You rarely dance and when you do, you compare your style of dancing with the style of other good dancers, and you see little similarities. Ok, so maybe you are bad, maybe you don't dance the right way. If it was up to you, you would immediately choose to dance in a better way, the way you want. Let's call that specific way of dancing your 'goal-dance'.
How do you get to that point where you become able to dance your 'goal-dance'? How do you learn to dance anyway?
Like with everything else, you learn by doing. You might find it useful to read, to think, to receive instructions. But if you want to learn to dance, you ultimately have to get up and dance. In essence, you learn dancing by dancing.
And in what manner can you dance today? How is the only way in which you can dance now? The only way in which you can dance now is the way you know now. That's the best you can do at the moment. Good or bad, like it or not, that's the only way you can dance now. You can only start working from there, right?
So you start practicing in the best way you can. You go for it. And you stumble. And you don't like to stumble! It makes you feel terrible! Besides, you came here to dance good, didn't you? To enjoy and reach your 'goal-dance', remember? You are not here to stumble!
Upon stumbling, you may decide "I give up dancing. I'm bad and I don't like it, so I won't dance" (and that's precisely what many people do, they stop dancing).
But please follow me for a moment and let's suppose that you feel deep inside that you have come to this planet to dance, that dancing is your purpose.
So you decide to keep trying.
Good. It so happens, that when you return to your practice of dancing, of course, you eventually stumble again. And again and again and again. You don't like to stumble but that's the best you can do for now, right? It's your stumble-dance 🙂 It's your own way of dancing at the moment, the only one you've got.
And you keep dancing.
While practicing this current style of yours, you go adjusting your steps as you see fit. You aim towards your preferences, probably towards your goal-dance. Your stumbling evolves into a 'better' stumbling.
You may even enjoy some of your stumbles (which is weird, because stumbling always makes you feel bad). Also, you may at some point decide to modify and adapt your goal-dance to new moves or influences you've come accross during your practice time.
In any case, you will keep practicing with your stumble-dance (now evolving) because it's the only style you know how to dance, remember?
And eventually, you will get good at it. You may even reach your goal-dance and do it just like you wanted to do it. The point where stumble-dance meets goal-dance! Yay!! You made it! Success!!
Your success doesn't matter. Your goal doesn't matter.
Deep down inside, you really know it doesn't matter.
What truly matters –and you will realize this along the way to your goals, sooner or later– is that the only way you can actually dance (be a beginner or an expert) is the way you can dance now.
Right now (and ever) you can only dance your stumble-dance. Your goal-dance doesn't even exist, it's only in your mind.
So dance your dance (your stumble-dance!) and pretty much ignore the goal-dance.
Live your life.