YOLO And Misconceptions Of Living In The Now

Beyond Thought
Original Art by Alex Grey

 YOLO, an acronym for ‘you only live once’, is a parasitic self destructive interpretation of the concept of ‘living in the Now’.  There’s a difference between living for the now, and living in the now.  The language makes the former statement barely decipherable, unless you’re already personally familiar with the experience of being absolutely present in the now, but on the experiential level there is a world of difference.


Living But One Life Is Not A Good Reason To Be An Idiot

It seems apparent that YOLO is an excellent thing to tweet, or call out as you embark on a journey of stupidity; be it driving drunk at a ridiculous speed with little regard for the physics of turning corners.  That’s an actual example; the rapper Ervin Mckinness tweeted out ‘YOLO’, and then died in a car crash.  You may only live once, but that in itself isn’t a reason to act with disregard for your own life, let alone innocents who might be left dead in the wake of your stupidity.

Living For The Moment Versus Living In The Moment

By now most people are familiar with the phrase, ‘living in the moment’, or ‘living in the now’.  It’s popularized by many new age books, not least of all Eckhart Tolle’s, ‘The Power of Now’.  Living in the moment requires no beliefs or dogma.  It is not a philosophy, it is not the stuff that arises from conceptualized thinking.  Living for the present moment is more associated with thrill seeking, or making the most of every day.  This is a noble endeavor – absent of the phrase YOLO – and I can’t argue with the reasoning.  We do after all live but one life on this Earth, and we should make the most of it.  Now to be fair, the usage of YOLO does not necessarily mean you’re putting your life or others on the line; maybe you’re just about to go sky diving, or sledding, or simply trying something new for the first time.

But if living for the present moment isn’t the same as living within the present moment, what’s the difference?  It’s all in the mind.  When you hearken back to your past regrets and doubts are quick to arise.  When you venture into the future with your mind stress and fear are common companions.  To live in the now infers a meditative state of alertness, one of awareness absent of the constant turmoil of your physiologically reacting to perpetual thoughts, ones that arise without your conscious consent.

The Conundrum Of Enjoying Now

We’re all familiar with wanting to be there, when we’re here, even if here is where we were previously striving to be.  You’re at work, but you want to be home playing with the kids.  You’re home with the kids, but you can’t stop thinking about work.  You’re at the beach on a warm sunny day in the company of friends, but your mind is busy contemplating what you’re going to do next.  How can you be at peace in the moment if your mind is always elsewhere, thoughts arising, provoking emotional reactions, which in turn feed your thought patterns.

Trapped In Thought: The Human Condition

Most everyone is familiar with the concept of ego.  It’s our illusory sense of self.  Most people equate it with arrogance or pride, but feeling bad about yourself feeds the ego too just fine.  You can see the division in the language we use.  ‘I can’t live with myself’, or ‘I just need some time alone with myself’.  You are yourself.  You don’t need to feel good about yourself or bad about yourself.  That’s a division in the mind, an illusion.  The mind is our greatest tool for exploring the world and negotiating its trials and tribulations, but it’s also the cause of most of our suffering when we identify with our mind as ‘myself’.

The Mind Is A Torturous Companion In Isolation From Others

Psychological torture is far worse than physical torture.  In prison being thrown in solitary confinement is a punishment.  Imagine preferring the company of – at worst case scenario – murderers,  thieves and rapists over your own company.  What could be so unbearable about your own company?  It’s the thoughts that arise, often repetitive, problematic, self pitying, inspiring emotions of anger, despair and grief.  Even in the worst of situations, solitary confinement for example, it is possible to be at peace if you truly are in the now.

To Be, Or Not To Be: Living In The Now

How is that so, and what is the experience like?  Just about all of us, almost all of the time, experience reality as if we’re located somewhere behind the eyes, and our thoughts and conditioning shape our perception of the world around us.  This is the core root of division that leads to conflict in the world, and within ourselves.  Two men can be sitting in the same cell, one sitting in bliss, another pacing, muscles tense, jaw clenched, riddled with thoughts and feelings of hate, be it at yourself, another, or simply how the world has treated you unfairly.  What is the core difference between these two men that changes their experience so intensely?

The Experience Of Being In The Now

When you are in the now, there is a spaciousness around you.  You feel a connection with the world around you.  There might be a subtle vibration within this expansive field of awareness.  Thoughts may arise, but internally you do not immediately react to them and become lost in them.  The story of your life is absent in this state, there is only presence, a feeling of aliveness.  You are in a state of being, without the compulsion to do.

Recall the movie ‘The Last Samuri’, when Tom Cruise’s character is getting a beat down with a bokken – a wooden sword used by samurai for practice.  The son of the woman he will marry approaches him and says, ‘too much mind.’  Eventually Tom gets it, and he enters the now, an experience of stillness, of expanded awareness, and then he progressively learns to kick more ass throughout the duration of the film.  Perhaps the word mind should be substituted for attention.  If your attention is focused on your inner body, on the world around you as it is with complete acceptance, your perception becomes clearer, and the thoughts that do arise are more insightful and less repetitive.

False Interpretations Of Subjective Experience Based on Conditioning

Many people have brief experiences in the moment without understanding it is our natural state of mind free of conditioning.  If you’re religious, say a Christian, you might liken the experience to Christ-Consciousness.  If you’re a Buddhist, it’s the Buddha mind.  If you’re not religious, you might label it a spiritual experience.  These words can get in the way, especially to a skeptic or an atheist – though there are plenty of atheists who meditate and have no trouble grappling with these concepts, there are others who find words like spiritual too uncomfortable to consider worth exploring.  That’s fine, there need be no label attached to being present, to experiencing reality as a field of still awareness.

The Future Is Now

Like all experiences there are gradations of presence.  If you begin the practice of meditation you might soon derive the benefits of less stress and more composure, but it does not mean that if you meditate for twenty years you will become enlightened – or ‘Awake’, in the sense that you predominantly dwell in the present moment, unhindered by unwanted thoughts and re-activity   The mind will grasp this as a concept, something to strive for – something for the future, and so it will be, always something to reach for, never experienced directly, or if so, only fleetingly.

Can Money Buy Happiness?

Money can buy you transient happiness, as can success.  But the ego will always want more – more negativity and self loathing, or more success and pride in your accomplishments.  Peace of mind, living in the moment, is a far deeper and more profound experience of being than any material possession can ever grant you.  But there’s no need to live in a cave and renounce all of your possessions.  We have life to deal with, bills to pay, responsibilities to maintain.  The key is to cultivate at least a semblance of peace and stillness and to attempt to bring that into your everyday life.  You may find success, in business or in relationships, comes more easily when you are not trapped in thought.  Your actions will be by definition more in harmony with what’s actually happening, not what you want to happen or demand should be happening.

Striving For What’s Already Here

You only live once.  Make the most of it, but if it’s peace you’re truly after, you won’t find it out there, not for long.  It’s your natural state, free of the burden of a mind that has hijacked the sense of aliveness that exists only in this moment, for it is always this moment.  This article is not to preach, for unfortunately I am no master at living in the present moment.  I have experienced it, but it’s not something you can strive for.  The act of striving is the act of trying to get there, but that’s the cosmic joke, because you are the present moment, yet those who experience this as their predominant reality are few.  Be wary of anyone who boasts of reaching this state as an accomplishment, or insists that you need to presuppose anything on insufficient evidence to have access to the inner realm of stillness.

Leave Quantum Physics Out Of It

There’s nothing metaphysical about it, not until you conceptualize the experience after having had it and start mixing in quantum physics.  Deepak Chopra is an excellent example of that. I don’t doubt he’s a practiced meditator, but there’s no need to make claims about the nature of the Universe based on the insights that arise from your subjective experience.

I’ve read many books on the subject and watched You Tube videos of those who purport to dwell in stillness as their predominant experience.  Eckhart Tolle and a few others have struck me as genuine.  If you’re interested in the subject then listening to him speak may give you far more insight into the subject of this article then well, the article itself.


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