When we're authentic, we are completely present in the "now". Our lives really only consist of 'now', not all the stuff that happened in the past, or all the things that could happen in the future. The only chance I have to choose, or make a decision that will shape my life, is right now; this moment.
Having "presence" is a very simple concept, but it's also very deep. So many people are missing out on living in the moment right now, as it's unfolding, and being totally here, instead of off in their heads somewhere. Our heads are full of fantasies. Before I know it, I've zipped off to the future, and I'm full of worries about "what next". Or if we don't jump forward, we zoom backwards, and start going over everything from the past, and trying to analyze what we just did.
The end result of living in the past of future tense is that I'm not really here. I'm not really alive. I'm not really living in the moment. But "here" is where my life is! It's where my power is, and where my choices are. We see this happening all around us all the time. Just think of all the people who are so busy talking on their cell phones, they don't pay any attention to what is going on right in front of their faces. If we're not 'present' we miss out on an awful lot of our own lives.
It sounds like a basic thing, but one of the main advantages of being fully "present" - living in the "now" mode - is that we can actually see the signs that Hashem is sending us all the time - both literally, and spiritually. The physical road signs help us to drive around more easily, and to get to where we're going; and the spiritual road signs guide us towards having much higher quality relationships with ourselves, G-d, and other people.
Those people who aren't present when their wives are talking to them, or when their kids are trying to tell them about what happened today in school, are missing the boat. We're not fooling anyone when we space out, and start thinking about what to make for supper, or how to cover our current financial shortfall. The other person feels it right away - we feel it right away, when it happens to us - and it doesn't feel good to be talking to someone who is preoccupied with 14 other things, whether it's answering their cell phone, checking their emails, fiddling with a pc, or looking here, there and everywhere - anywhere except directly at you, the person they are meant to be talking to and connecting with.
Presence is not a luxury, or a nice idea. We need presence to have good marriages, successful business relationships, happy children. A person who isn't really "here" and who isn't really in touch with their feelings is spiritually handicapped. They won't know what they are feeling, or why they are feeling angry, or impatient with Hashem, for example. Because he doesn't know what the problem really is, he won't be able to get out of his problem state. But if they are being present in their body, that person will at least have the first part of the puzzle, and will at least know what they are really feeling.
Remember, our feelings are located in our bodies, not in our brains. It's only once we've plugged in to those emotions that are present in our souls and hearts that we'll really be able to start to have good quality relationships.
So what, if you're not there yet? You're moving towards it, you've got the momentum, and most importantly of all, you have a clear picture of what's holding you back, and what needs to chance for you to achieve your goal, whatever your goal might be - a healthier marriage, a higher financial status, or even losing a bunch of weight.
The process itself, with all its ups and downs, gives us a good feeling. Even if we don't have an emuna coach behind us, or a plan of action to follow, even just making a start and wanting things to be different or better can make us feel good.
I say "can make us feel good", because all too often, the Evil Inclination jumps all over our efforts and urge to be better, and turns things around to make us feel even worse about ourselves.
Say someone wants to do more Torah learning, so they make a decision to start doing the Daf Yomi (one page of Talmud a day). Except some days they do, and some days they don't. Pretty soon, they are three months behind schedule, and their Evil Inclination is having a field day.
This happens to so many of us, we try to go forward, we fail, or we don't do as well as we wanted, and we start to feel down, guilty and bad about ourselves. Stop thinking that way! Instead of wallowing in how "bad" you are, go and do something and get the good feeling and the momentum back in your life. Go learn, even if it's just for 15 or 20 minutes. It doesn't matter what you learn, or how well you do it, just go and start something.
The key to getting out of this "down" state is to start growing again and not to get stuck. It doesn't have to be at supersonic speed, but that feeling of growing, of doing something, that's what makes us feel alive. That's what makes us feel as though we are growing, progressing evolving, changing. We have to feed ourselves this spiritual growth formula every day, it doesn't matter how. We can read more, learn more, start a new project at work, work out in the gym - the key is to do something that makes us feel as though we are progressing towards something, and not stagnating.
This requires a lot of patience and emuna, or faith. It may well not be a linear effort, and we'll experience a lot of "two steps forward, and one step back" - but sooner or later, we're going to get there. Have faith! You're reading this. You are going to get there.
A state of fearlessness
How is being authentic, and living in the moment, connected to achieving a state of fearlessness? It's really quite simple: people who live in the present have less fear, and are focused on what they need to be doing in here and now. The key issue, the key question for those people is: "what do I need to be doing now?" Now - that's the key. I'm not even thinking about five or ten minutes into the future. Whatever my focus is, it has to be rooted in "now". Once I internalize that, once I'm really present, then I'm going to start being much bolder; I'm going to start having a lot more courage to initiate even massive actions or movements, if necessary. Why? Because I'm not scared of what's coming down the track. The only question I'm asking myself is: what do I need to do now?
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Dr. Zev Ballen, Psy.D. has been a practicing psychotherapist for more than 30 years. He is the founder and developer of Emuna Therapy, a faith-based method of counseling based exclusively on the teachings of Rabbi Shalom Arush. Dr. Zev has the endorsements of Gadolei Yisrael such as the Nikolsburger Rebba, Rabbi Yitzchok Fagelstock, Rabbi Shalom Arush, and Rabbi Lazer Brody. You can see Dr. Zev's live video broadcast every Wednesday at 5pm Israel time here on breslev.co.il. You can write in with questions to Dr. Zev at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can call him at: 845-362-8600 (US) or 054-840-9499 (Israel). Dr. Zev resides in Jerusalem, with his family, where he learns in Rav Arush’s Kollel and maintains a part-time private practice. You're also welcome to visit Dr. Zev's personal blog, Emuna Therapy.