I have learned a lot from AA, although I am not an alcoholic. When my mind is twittering about what I need to do tomorrow and what so and so said earlier today, whether I canget it all done, and what did she mean when she said x or y and did I handle it right – I say to myself, “Just for today,” a tidy little AA slogan and there it is: Today.
Today is the one that ends at, say, ten o’clock tonight. I imagine it in vertical with a ceiling, but a gentle ceiling, maybe of rice paper with a trap door opening onto sleep. Sleep which signals the limits of today. That end the vertical is the only place I have to go, the only hours for which I am responsible. Every other directive can be put aside. Thank you Bill W. or Dr. Bob.
Buddhist psychologists are even more radical. They say: “This moment – the only moment.” A teacher I admire posed this question: “Is there any moment in your life better than this very moment?” Then she laughed because, as she realized, “You may be feeling terrible at this moment.” Nevertheless, the answer to the question is no. From the Buddhist point of view there is only this moment, everything else is constructed: a memory, a judgment or an anticipation and all in your mind. But your mind is not reality, thank goodness.
Although both of these concepts can transfer into counseling practice, I have found that education about the limits and potential of today is more useful than education about the present moment. Perhaps this is because when I am personally in distress I can’t locate the present moment, but I can find the vertical shape of the day. Like Jacob on his ladder, I know how to climb.
The present moment is trickier. As soon as you say: “I have it!” it has disappeared. This is because if you’re in the present moment you’re neither praising nor damning, you’re just there.
I have not yet learned to locate the present moment when in distress and alone so I would not attempt to guide my clients in that direction. I can come into the present if I have someone with whom I can talk, but I can’t do it by myself. I will let you know, dear blog readers, when or if I get there.