To be present, totally present in the moment, is to expand your awareness through separating from all the judgmental and identifying thoughts that your mind has become so attached to through the conditioning of your material focused upbringing. It is distancing yourself from your ego, the image that you identify yourself with, and allowing you to see life from a much clearer and untarnished perspective. It is removing the filters or, perhaps more accurately, the blinders over your eyes, which will allow you to see the world in a "new light."
That new light is the light of Truth (eternal truth) and its effects are profound.
The issue that people have with being present is that their thoughts are centered so much on their perceived problems, that they simply can't focus their attention on what is before them, and so they can never really discover anything that is real. They are stuck in their imagination. They are so attached to their thoughts and beliefs that they're driven to defend them at all costs, even if that means wasting all opportunities at real discovery of the truths about life.
Even worse yet, they constantly compare themselves to other people. They feel jealousy towards those who seem to have been blessed with a better life, and scoff at those who are perceived to not be as good or righteous as themselves. They are so caught up in judgment, that they can't accept everything that they see in the external world. What they see in the world outside themselves is experienced internally as good or bad, right or wrong, beautiful or ugly, superior or inferior, worthy or unworthy.
They are so caught up in not being (fill in the blank), that they can never just be...in the moment. What they may not realize is that this whole process of thinking, of trying to be something, is essentially just noise and distractions from truth. The external world and all its properties are not real, it is only what you believe it to be, nothing more and nothing less. The "reality" of the external world is that it is an illusion. Good and bad. Beautiful and ugly. All comparison, all judgement, all competition is created solely by your imagined reality.
In allowing this imagination to run them, they form beliefs that drive their imagination further down more specific paths that will guide their decision making processes by closing their minds more and more, limiting their ability to discover truth. But they are so wrapped up in their beliefs that reality is such a way and so set on defending those beliefs that they have trapped themselves in this game of finding true happiness and understanding of life "out there." So instead of basing their lives on what is real, they live only in their mind, by projecting their thoughts, their delusions about themselves and others and how everything relates to one another, onto what would otherwise be reality. Therefore, to experience the external is not to experience the real, it is the experience of your inner beliefs. Meaning cannot be found in the external, all you'll find there is the deception built by your mind in its attempt to escape the painful reality that it knows nothing.
As long as people allow their minds to control their reality, they will remain forever stuck in the illusions of their beliefs, and unable to escape their futile search for perfection in that world. A perhaps very alarming truth that will come to you through expanding your awareness is that anything that is perceived as less than perfect (as it just is) are really only manifestations of your inner insecurities about yourself and fear of what you might be faced with upon discovering truth. Those perceived qualities in others and all that judgement attached with it are only your inner feelings about yourself being projected onto the 3-dimensional reality that you see as the world. Because people will always realize this truth at an intuitive level, whether or not they've grown to unconsciously hide from it, all these types of thoughts will inevitably lead to fears that inhibit their ability to openly explore themselves and the world and live in the moment.
Now an even more problematic question arises: how can one control their thoughts so as not to develop all those inhibiting fears?
Most will come to realize that to not want is to bring about. That's because the very act of not wanting is to hold the belief that the thing that you don't want exists. And it is only your beliefs that make anything happen in your external life. They are the driving force of your line of thought, and therefore your decisions and the consequences of your physical life. The inevitable truth is that you can't force your thoughts down any road. Your mind has come to accept certain things as true whether or not they are. Worse yet, most people aren't even consciously aware of all their beliefs - the very things that drive all their decision making processes!
No wonder why people are full of fear. They are stuck living out their self-defeating belief systems. They are suffering the consequences of being lost in thought, lost in past memories and all the judgments attached to those memories, and, therefore, are unable to experience truth by living in the moment.
The great thing is no matter how lost you may become, you always know intuitively that something isn't right about your beliefs. You will always feel a void, an emptiness that some deeper part of you yearns to fill. That's your inner self, and it yearns for meaning that can only be found in discovering the truth, not in defending your beliefs. Some, perhaps most, people try to escape this feeling of emptiness by remaining occupied in their quest for happiness in the external. They may look for it in sex, money, power or fame, but they will never find it. It will always remain there until you fill it with truth. That can only be discovered by becoming fully aware of what you are in this moment. THAT is the aim of meditation.
You don't have to close your eyes to meditate, nor do you have to hold a certain posture. Meditation is simply awareness of this moment, awareness of the presence that is your TRUE SELF. It is a look at the true reality of nature and the self, as opposed to the reality formed by the beliefs that you've developed through your past life experiences.
So, to discover truth you must only expand your awareness, or, more accurately, begin to open up to the awareness presence that you are...but you must discover this for yourself for it to have any benefit to your life.
You don't have to control your thoughts. You don't have to shun your ego. In fact, you can't shun your ego, for the same reason that you can't ever get what you want by focusing on what you don't want. The thoughts that you focus on, those that you place the magnifying lens of your mind's eye on, will become a bigger, more influential, part of your belief system. This is the only way that it can be. This is how your mind operates. But, if you can place your focus on the awareness of everything RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW - your thoughts, your feeling, your emotions, your sensations, your entire experience of THIS MOMENT - you will come quickly to learn many things that are integral to your feeling complete. You will come to learn your true nature and the nature of reality. You will be exposed to Truth. You will begin to develop spiritually, and, therefore, begin to fill that void that is inescapable in the physical realm of your mind and body.
Now, where does love come into play in all of this, you ask?
Well, it's your true nature, the nature of your spirit - the eternal, formless, unchanging you. It's what you'll experience when living in the moment and it is what will give you the strength to overcome the inhibiting nature of your inner fears that materialize in your external world, which cause you to go into hiding.
Love overcomes fear. It overcomes fear because it is far more beneficial to promote your well being and future success. In fact, it is the driving force of creation. That's why you will always experience it in the awareness of deep meditation. It is the truth underlying your existence and the existence of all else. With the removing of fear, all the walls of deception will begin to crumble. Your mind (ego) will naturally become less attached to your thoughts, you will become less judgmental, more accepting, more selfless, and far more loving and compassionate towards others. Which means, of course, that you will become more loving, accepting, and compassionate towards yourself the more you allow your conscious awareness to expand. Should you expand it enough, through enough presence of mind (ie meditation), you will be unconditionally loving and forgiving towards yourself, and therefore unconditionally loving and forgiving to all life and the world.
So there you go. The truth lies within. It is in your "spiritual heart." It is, has, and always will be.
So, how exactly do we open up to this spiritual heart, you ask?
We must place our attention on the awareness of our thoughts, feelings, emotions, and sensations, as opposed to with the strong identification and resulting labels and judgements that have formed through our memory, which was accumulated through the filter of our past conditioning and beliefs.
In fact, your conditioned mind is the only obstacle standing in the way of knowing your Self and Truth. But it can be quite an obstacle to overcome, for it is the grand accumulation of all your past thoughts and its power can be magnified many-fold by those beliefs that you've come to hold firmly. This conditioned mind is the "egoic self," the thought based self, and it is full of many perceptual errors and ill-conceived notions about the nature of the self and the world. It is the architect, engineer, and carpenter of your self-image - every aspect of what and who you imagine yourself to be. It is all your prejudices, all your doubts and fears. It is the cause of your habits, both those which are perceived to be good and bad. It is the cause of judgment, and therefore of preferences, likes and dislikes. It is the cause of the division within your thoughts and those perceived in the world. It is the glasses that grossly distort how you perceive every facet of reality. It is the true master of deception, and it has created reality as you know it, which translates more accurately to a world of illusion.
Yes your mind, your imagination, has created a world of illusion in which you are living in right now. To live in the conditioned mind is to live based on your interpretation of your past conditioning; that is, it is to live out the picture of reality held in your mind, and solely that. It's to live in the ego.
It's a funny thing, the ego. Its whole purpose in life is to become wholly fulfilled, to feel whole, and so it constantly seeks this out in life. The problem being, it always assumes that it isn't already whole and that the solution lies in finding some "thing" outside of itself, something in the external world. Of course, this assumption presents it with many problems. The foremost one being that it should feel any lack (emptiness) to begin with. Perhaps an even a bigger cause for suffering, however, comes in the form of its incessant yearning for control in a world full of competition for control. The fact is, the ego doesn't know exactly what it needs to feel whole, so it tries to solve this problem by gaining control over as many things as possible, whether it be possessions, money, land, people, etc. But this is a big challenge for it, because there are many other people who are competing for this same power. And no matter how much power it may gain, no matter how much control it may have over the world, no matter how much fame it has obtained, it will always fall short, because there will always be more to obtain and competition that threatens to snatch them up before it can.
Many things can happen because of all the importance that is placed on this control in the ego. One may perhaps even become king of a nation if enough success is found in one's striving to become powerful. History has shown that even such a person isn't satisfied with their position, as they've historically always pushed to expand their rule over larger and larger areas and more people. I'm certain that even a king of the world would find some way to be unsatisfied with their power. At least, they'd still feel somehow incomplete.
On the other end of the spectrum, some may feel that they've had very little material success because of their perceived poor living conditions and go into deep depression because of all the importance that they place on that mental image. Still others may be in a similar scenario, but they delude themselves into believing that their conditions are better than they are through self-rationalization, allowing them to enter an even deeper level of illusion in which they are somehow choosing to have their living conditions so as to avoid the suffering of not meeting their ego's ideals.
Living in the ego often causes thoughts or feelings of victimization, in which much blame is placed either on others or self-perceived limitations that are viewed as a hindrance to its success. As I said before, it causes a sense of division, a deep feeling of "me" versus "them" and "us" against the world. It is the cause of pride, both at the individual and national scale. It is the cause of racism and any other form of prejudice. It is the cause of division within people, and therefore the reason why we have imposed boundaries between people like countries, states, and cities. The ego literally runs the physical world that we all call earth, and that is precisely why you must look within to find true peace and happiness.
All the possessions in the world cannot make your life feel complete. It won't bring you peace and happiness, but only more suffering, when you inevitably realize that you still feel unsatisfied with all your accumulated wealth. The fact of the matter is, the world out there doesn't have any answers for your deeper problems, they lie only within yourself. Like I said previously, you've assumed that you're incomplete and that is why you always feel the urge to seek, to want more, to become more, to strive forever onward to find the peace and happiness with which you desire; and, in doing so, you've chosen to live in the illusion of your mind that is your ego.
From the perspective of the ego, to look inside is a complete waste of time, for it has already concluded that there are no answers there, but it is mistaken. What the ego doesn't realize is that this notion is only imagined to be true, but never really tested. And so the ego, which is based on this entirely false premise, can only bring further suffering, for it will never take a serious look in the direction that, ironically, is the only direction that can give it what it wants. While it seeks to fulfill in the form of knowledge, wealth, and power in the physical sense, the deeper yearning that resides over all your thoughts, emotions and feelings comes from your "spiritual heart" that is actually calling out to you from within to look inward and discover the truth that all your answers lie right here with you. That is the void, that is the emptiness that you feel, in which your ego is trying to fill and can never fill, for it only runs away from the emptiness by focusing all your attention to the external world.
So, the answer to resolve all your problems, all your suffering should be becoming clear by now. You must look past your conditioned (egoic) mind and hold your attention within, at the root of your existence, the true source of your experience of life - your spiritual heart.
And what is the spiritual heart, you ask?
It is the deepest sense of awareness that exists within you. It is your inherent awareness that there is a separation between what can be called the entirety of you and your thoughts, emotions, and feelings. In other words, it is living in the deeper, more intuitive, knowing that you are not your thoughts, nor the feelings or emotions that accompany them. You are not these things, but you are AWARE of all these things.
Within that awareness, you may choose to place all your attention within those phenomena of your mind thus giving you the impression of being the very thought that you think, or emotion that you feel, or you may choose to become more detached from them, creating a sense of space within, with which you don't feel so caught up in them. When in this space you'll no doubt notice that they don't appear so big or important to you, nor will they be felt so intensely. At the same time, you'll, in all likelihood, feel more at peace within yourself than you normally would when focusing your attention outward. This is because this space is your self-realized truth that your peace lies inside, not out there. In this space, you can let that be however it is and be at peace, because you realize here that you are not that; you are not that which you can see, hear, smell, taste, touch, or feel, but you are the one who may choose to do all those things, and you are right here, experiencing as you truly are.
At this moment you may believe that this awareness that underlies the more tangible aspects of your mind is only another working of your mind. In other words, you may currently view yourself as a person who is aware. But that is only an illusion of your mind. It is merely the image you've formed of yourself in the reality of your ego. You actually are the awareness, and nothing more. Yes, you are the very void that your ego runs away from in its seeking to find fulfillment. The truth is that everything in the physical world is created by the very consciousness that you utilize to perceive it. It is nothing more than a game that the awareness that you truly are plays, if only to forget itself for a while.
But don't worry, your conditioned mind will no doubt reject everything that I just said outright and without hesitation and you can continue to live your life in pursuit of what you believe will bring you ultimate peace. However, if there's a part of you that's interested in what I said, and/or some doubt hanging somewhere in your mind that maybe, just maybe, everything you've fought to believe in until now might just be an illusion of a very powerful force that you've come to know as your mind, then, please, at least consider that finding this space within can be of benefit to you.
The fact of the matter is that you can't take my word for it. I know this for a fact because I, like all others, have to work with a similar conditioned mind that you yourself do, and I too have an ego, which itself is very skeptical of such claims. Of course it is, how can't it be when everything we've learned and most, if not all, our experiences based on that accumulated knowledge seems to point in another direction? All I can say to this is that you must experiment with this on your own. You must look within yourself and discover this on your own for this to have any benefit to you. To believe in this is not enough, it will be no different from all your current beliefs, which may have their benefits, but still leave you feeling like you're missing something. You must KNOW this, for it is the only way that you can be sure and you can know finally whether true freedom can be obtained in this life, or the afterlife for that matter.
Again, you can know this only by focusing your attention deeper inside, towards your source, towards the awareness that you are. It would be inaccurate to state that you should seek to become the awareness, for you already are that, and nothing more. However, it will likely feel at first like you are trying to become aware from your viewpoint as you likely have come to strongly associate yourself with your thoughts, feelings, and emotions and, therefore, feeling as if they are the entirety of your being. As a result, it may appear difficult at first to remain in the awareness, or to even find it. That space may feel very small, and it might seem difficult to remain present in that space when trying to maintain your external life. But this is only because your ego has held your attention for so long and you've built up so many beliefs and strengthened them so much through reinforcement in your accumulated memories that it can't help but feel like an obstacle between you and self-discovery. You will, in all likelihood, have periods of feeling very awkward around people that you know as your mind continues to wage in the battle between illusion and truth. It may often seem like you forgot to know how to act when around them, and this may cause some fear of rejection to arise in you. Just try to realize that this is only because you ever ACTED to begin with. Such is simply the outcome of seeing that you weren't being true to yourself before, and slowly dropping the act and allowing your true self to shine - it's a good thing!
Such is why spirituality is seen as such a trial to the human being. It will likely feel like a battle for you, especially when you first start. Part of you will feel threatened at even the thought of looking inside. It should be of no surprise to you by now that that part is the ego itself. You've so strongly identified with your ego up until now that you likely fear losing it like losing life itself. It is, after all, all you currently know as your life. All your current attachments face being lost upon your discovery of what truly matters and so that part of you that gains from those attachments and the very part of you that longs for them will feel threatened by your inward seeking.
The good news is, if you have the courage and persistence to push past the initial resistance, the intensity of the battle will soon die down, until eventually there will be no more perceived resistance at all. At such a point, it will take no more effort to seek out yourself, it will happen by itself. For at this point you have tipped the scale over to your spiritual heart. The ego may still be there, you may still be able to observe it and it may still have some observable influence on your daily habits or activities; however, it will continue to dissolve with every passing moment without even much care on your part as you come realize that everything out there really doesn't much matter. It will all happen as it does and you won't have any desire to change things nor any urge to judge the things that do happen. You can let them be as they are, as you remain in the peace of being as you truly are, in that space of awareness.
Recall how Jesus said, " for behold, the kingdom of God is within..."
It just so happens that that is the truth...don't just believe it, but live it by looking in there and finding it. I'm positive that you'll find that your life is actually much better than you could ever imagine it.
Peace be with you always,