04/10/2012 07:09 am ET Updated Jun 10, 2012

If You're Not Here, Then Where Are You?

Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. -- John Lennon

Who said life would be like walking the yellow brick road, or that the human condition would be easy? And why is it so important to be here? What's the big deal? It appears that the reason we're often not happy is because we long for things to be other than they are. We're not satisfied being here. Not satisfied being with what is. We want things to be different; therefore, we're not truly present with our reality.

Each day may seem the same when we follow a routine of going to work, sitting at the same desk, coming home the way we always do. Did you ever feel like it's always Monday morning, as the week goes by so fast, or that you're always brushing your teeth, as the days seem to vanish? Yet, no matter how much we try, plan, plot, arrange, have things to do, leave the house at the same time each day, arrive at the office the same time, pick up the kids on time -- we still have no idea what will happen next.

When we were in England, Ed was chatting with a nun named Avis. He said to her, "Some day we will all die and meet up in heaven." And she replied, "Yeah, and we'll look at each other and say, 'What was that all about!'"

Normally, we spend our time either living in what-could-have-been or what-might-have-been or if-only, or in the expectation of what-could-be or what-might-be. Of course, we can learn from the past. As challenging as it may be, the most painful experience can often turn out to be our best teacher, and we may feel enormous gratitude for what we have leaned.

However, memories can also be like comfortable old shoes we are reluctant to part with. We can put them on now and then to enjoy the familiarity, but we don't have to wear them every day. Ed trained at the Bihar School of Yoga in India and one day his teacher looked at him and said, "Man's memory is like a fool's paradise!" Constantly living in either the past or the future is like being in a dream, as it limits our capacity to be in the present, with what is happening now.

We used to live next to a river and walked beside it each day. But as much as it looked like the same river, even the same water, it was constantly different. Just as we may look the same, the cells in our body are forever being formed, growing and dying; we are continually changing as we renew ourselves in every minute.

We can stay open to these moments of change by simply being aware of them. Right now, just stop and take a deep breath. As you breathe out, just notice how your body feels, the chair you are sitting on, and the room you are in. That's all. It only takes an instant to be present.

Contrary to common belief, it can be immensely liberating to have nothing going on, to discover that the whole universe is contained in this moment. To realize that nothing more is required of us than to just be aware and present. What a relief! Finally, we can experience this reality just as it is, without expectation, prejudice, longing, or without the desire for something to be different. This invites a deep sense of completion, that there really is nowhere else we need to be or go. It's impossible to think of somewhere else as being better, for the grass is vividly green exactly where we are.

Someone once asked Ed if he had ever experienced another dimension. He replied, "Have you experienced this one?" There is no greater joy in this whole world than our own true self.

Practice: Being and Breathing Meditation

When we meditate by simply watching the flow of the breath it naturally brings us into the present. The breath is just breathing, and yet it is never the same, each breath is completely different to the last one.

Sit comfortably with your back straight, hands in your lap, eyes closed. Spend a few minutes settling your body.

Now bring your focus to your breathing. Just watch the natural movement as you breathe in and out. Silently repeat, "Breathing in, Breathing out."

Stay with watching your breath. If your mind starts to drift just see your thoughts as birds in the sky and watch them fly away. Then come back to the breath.

Anytime you get distracted, bored, or stressed, just come back to the breath, to this moment now. Silently repeat, "I am here, I am now, I am present. I am here, I am now, I am present."

You can do this for a few minutes or as long as you like. When you are ready, take a deep breath and let it go, open your eyes, and move gently.

What stops you from being here and now? Do comment below. You can receive notice of our blogs every Thursday by checking Become a Fan at the top.


See our award-winning book: BE THE CHANGE, How Meditation Can Transform You and the World, forewords by the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman, with contributors Jack Kornfield, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Byron Katie, Jane Fonda and many others.

Deb is the author of the award-winning YOUR BODY SPEAKS YOUR MIND, Decoding the Emotional, Psychological, and Spiritual Messages That Underlie Illness.

Our three meditation CDs: Metta -- Loving kindness and Forgiveness; Samadhi -- Breath Awareness and Insight; and Yoga Nidra -- Inner Conscious Relaxation, are available at:

For more by Ed and Deb Shapiro, click here.

For more on meditation, click here.