To be in the present moment, it's not what we focus on that's important, it's how we use the senses.

Animals have two ways of using their senses; focused and panoramic.

Panoramic sensing evolved to notice changes and movements happening here in the immediate environment; and now in the present moment. It's perfect for being mindfully here and now. It's built for that purpose.

Throughout evolution, panoramic perception has been the natural way to switch off, stop doing everything and be actively and purely receptive, ready and waiting, wide awake and aware of anything which might happen.

It can only be done here and now, because that's the only time movements and changes are actually happening. Even its passive use when dozing is about what's happening now.

Panoramic sensing reverses some of our normal ideas on meditation. Being attatched to it, expecting it to work, even wanting and trying to be now, all encourage nowness to happen. It's reliable, it has to be. Animals rely on it to survive and have done for billions of years.

Instead of trying to be here and now, go panoramic and do it. Instead of thinking about how to stop all the abstract thoughts so you can be now, go panoramic and sense what's happening now – that stops the thoughts and gets you now.

Focusing on the present moment

To focus, we have to be now to some extent. But focusing is always selective, it always limits the full spectrum of what's actually happening.

When something happens which stimulates us, focusing is easy and natural, and in that moment it is intensely now. But this experience will usually bind us to a future remembering the event, and wanting it again. It usually binds us to both a past and a future.

Focusing is fundamentally not entirely now, it's built that way, it's going somewhere which is not here, or doing something which hasn't happened yet. 

Focusing is very clever. We can focus on and even do something, and think about something else all at the same time. In fact most of the time when our senses are focusing on something, we are thinking about something else. Focusing is almost always about coordination and the challenge is to concentrate.

When we concentrate and coordinate our senses, bodies, and minds, focusing often has the semblance of being here and now, because it is so involving. And as part of a creative process – with music and the arts, architecture and innovation – focusing can awesome and produce amazing results. But it is always only a limited part of the here and now.

So when we say focus on the present moment, we are asking for concentration and coordination of the senses and mind. As such, it is a useful concentration exercise. But it's a lot of work and effort compared to the feeling of presence in this moment where concentration and coordination are an intrinsic part of panoramic sensing.

Occasionally we experience one of those special moments seeing all the stars at night or a panoramic view – and then we start involuntarily panoraming. And we will notice at those times, mental concentration is not a separate element to be coordinated, it is part of the act of sensing.

Getting the Timing Right

Mystical experiences of oneness are reported as being both here and now, and eternal and everywhere.

In all the spiritual systems which focus on eternal principles or a God, or oneness, or love, even those methods which practice a method of continuous repetition, like prayer or mantra – it is not important when you do them. They are unchanging; they are not time specific.

These eternal beings, mental conditions, and methods, can exist or happen any time. Even doing nothing can be done anytime.

If we want eternity, we probably have to focus on eternity. But if we want to be here and now, and do that here and now, (i.e. immediately and without hesitation or years of practice) we have to empathise with animals, they are the experts and they are the best gurus.

This subject is covered from aother angle in The Limitations of Focusing on the Present Moment

Back to Chapter Two : Exploring The Panorama