Be there then: A new mantra for living


Many wise and well-meaning men, and even wiser women, inspire us to live in the present. “Be here now” is their timeless mantra, repeated a million times in as many ashrams, temples, retreats and sweat lodges the world over. And it sounds so sensible, so transformational, spiritual and enlightened that millions of people have come to accept it as “the way.”

This is all well and good, as long as “here” is a good place to be and “now” is a good time to be there. But what if that isn’t the case? Is being present in the here and now always that way for you? Ecstatic, comforting, awakening, sacred? If your answer is yes, I’m happy for you, for you are truly blessed and you needn’t read on. But it’s rarely ever that way for most people, myself included. So I have learned through my own unique meditation practice to exist comfortably and peacefully in the there and then.

Before I describe my method I should tell you that I have tried many times to sit still, breathe deeply, clear my mind, remove myself from the past and future at once, and experience the so-called here and now. Sometimes it works. But all too often I find myself surrounded with the obnoxious effluvia of everyday life: crap, noise, heat, drafts, malodorous gasses and nonsense.

The here and now can be a pretty continuous assault of existential grime that I don’t particularly want to see, feel, smell or hear. Without the discipline of my new practice, I’m unable to escape it. It remains fixed in my field of vision, my soundscape, my weary bombarded gestalt. So here’s what I do when I’m overwhelmed by the present.

I flop down into a comfortable chair (a cushy recliner or barcalounger is best); put some of my favorite funk or rock on the stereo; smoke, snort or pour something strong; turn up the volume; then close my eyes, hold my breathe and imagine myself somewhere else, at least a year or so back or even further into the distant future… on a horse that won’t throw me, a woman who won’t reject me, an island in the Pacific, on top of a mountain or at a fabulous resort someone else is paying for. Very soon I am at peace with the world, a lasting and totally embracing peace far beyond my expectations. A sacred mystical joy transcends every ecstasy I have ever imagined. I am in nirvana, however you define it. What could be better? The here and now? I doubt it… at least not my here or my now. How about yours?

If you’ve never tried focusing on the there and then, try it. If during your meditation the here and now begins to creep into your consciousness, take another toke, throw back a Red Bull, turn up the volume, shout a profanity at God or the universe, push the present away and imagine yourself in a roller derby, at a rave, on a bucking Brahma or free-falling into a deep bottomless canyon. Make “be there then” your healing mantra, your nourishment, your guide, and I promise you that bliss will envelope the very essence of each divine chakra in your sacred kundalini.

I offer classes in my transformational meditation technique every Friday evening in the pool room behind the Western Saloon. Bring your favorite CD’s. (Remember, the devil has the best tunes.) Bring money for liquor, your Nintendo X-box loaded with Grand Theft Auto and prepare your soul for an awakening so powerful it will last until next week’s meditation and leave you convinced that being present is rarely, if ever, anything close to right living.

Two hundred dollars a session may sound steep to you, but nirvana never came cheap. If you don’t believe me, check out the catalogue from Spirit Rock. The eternal path from here and now to there and then is scattered with expensive obstacles. I will help you transcend them and find insight, everlasting joy and meaning. It’s in your heart—just not here or now.

So, you ask, is this irreverent asshole telling me that everything I have learned at Spirit Rock and the Zen center is BS? Not me, I’m just saying their teaching is not the only way, the sole eternal and universal wisdom. Before you ride off on your ethereal high horse, consider this.

There are millions of people in prison, crappy nursing homes, slums, ICU’s, ghettoes, crowded subways and airplanes stalled on tarmacs, whose immediate experiences are totally frigging miserable. Should we counsel them to meditate on the ever present here and now when they are trapped and surrounded with noise, trash, death, halitosis and stifling heat? How cruel is that? Why not instead teach them how to transport themselves, at least for the moment, to the never-present there and then?

Roshi Bagwan Dowtz studied meditation with Mike Tyson and Robert Downey Jr. under Sunny Barger at the Hell’s Angel Ashram in Bakersfield, Calif.