Most of the time we worry about events, both past and future, and are anxious about them. This is the nature of mind since it thinks either about the future or about the past. But happiness and peace of mind can come only if we are anchored in the ‘now’. ‘Now’ is difficult to define because by the time we get down to it, it is already in the past! Einstein, the high priest of time, would say that we do not understand ‘now’ — we understand both future and past, but find it difficult to grasp the ‘now’. For practical purposes we could define ‘now’ as work in hand and living on a day-to-day basis.
Many feel that we need to think about the future also, since most of us live on hope. There is nothing wrong with that. However, “hope thinking” should only occupy a small fraction of our time; the rest can be devoted to the present moment, for that is how nature evolves. Nature achieves equilibrium with all forces at a given time; then the next evolutionary step takes place. This is the power of ‘now’ since nature takes time and effort to remain anchored in that period.
In case it cannot, then, it branches later onto the path that can do so and the branch, which could not come in equilibrium, withers away and dies. If we are anchored in the ‘now,’ by coming in equilibrium with forces around us we resolve conflict and are able to live sustainable and happy lives. If we do not, then our efforts and energies are wasted since too much thinking about the future leads to anxiety and frustration, as they are not in our control.
By living in the ‘now’, path to the future becomes clear. It is also a sobering thought that evolutionary forces are so powerful that, no matter how much we continue to think of the future and “will” it, we are all swept away by the ‘band’ of evolution. Living in the ‘now’ shows us the correct path as it enables us to grasp opportunities that come our way because the direction of further progress becomes evident even as all other eventualities are exhausted. It also makes us aware of the path because when we delve deeply in the work at hand it gives us better insight.
The ability to focus on the present also prevents us from dwelling on negative events of the past. Thus, the cycle of bad memories and their consequences is forgotten or resolved. This is the genesis of peace of mind and happiness. Nevertheless, it is difficult to do this because the brain keeps dwelling on the past or keeps on imagining the future. Brain is a dynamic entity and its internal churning and sensory inputs result in continuous thought production. This is how ‘brain chatter’ takes place.
The only way to stop this chatter is to stay focused on the work in hand or on a single thought for a long time. This is the basis of Sanyam of Patanjali’s Yoga Darshan. With practice of Sanyam our brains are enabled to function optimally and this helps us to see opportunities present at that time. Therefore, it is clear that the whole basis of Yoga is to be anchored in the ‘now’.