From the popular host of The Astral Hustle, an accessible guide to hacking your mindand lifeto feel more fully present and alive, even if you're not the "the meditating type."
Through his popular podcast The Astral Hustle and online meditation course Release into Now, Cory Allen has helped thousands of people better cope with the stress of daily life through meditation, mindfulness, and mental clarity. With concise advice and profound simplicity, he manages to cut through the jargon and speak to people where they are, giving them the tools to live in "the wow of now."
In this accessible and supportive guide, Allen walks readers through the basics of mindfulnessnot as something you should do, but as a tool to achieve greater peace of mind, dial down anxiety and stress, and truly feel like yourself. Informed by a lifelong personal journey, as well as insights gathered through podcast interviews with leaders in mindfulness, neuroscience, and philosophy, Now Is the Way is a simple user's manual for living the life you want, one present moment at a time.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Cory Allen is a podcaster (The Astral Hustle), meditation teacher, and audio engineer. Through his popular online meditation course Release Into Now and binaural beats for meditation, he has helped thousands of people learn to meditate with clarity and simplicity. He lives in Austin, Texas.
Read an Excerpt
What Is the Present Moment?
Your eyes are closed. Imagine feeling at peace in your body. It’s like you’ve had a heavy backpack on for all of your life and you’ve finally decided to set it down. Getting used to carrying that kind of weight is easy. It’s in our nature to tough things out. This weight hurts your bones, but you are good at carrying on. You’re able to make yourself believe that heaviness is a part of life. But today, you realize that you can take off that weighted backpack and leave it behind. When you sling the backpack off your shoulder, it hits the ground with a thud. It thumps the earth so hard you feel an impact tremor run through the ground and tickle your feet. Ah. This absence of weight makes your body feel light. It’s easier to breathe and stand up straight. Your spine pops in relief as you relax your shoulders and arch your back. You start to notice a new sensation. The crushing weight of the backpack made you numb. With it off, your body feels like it’s expanding and flowing outward in different directions.
The center of your being feels rooted in your heart. Your shoul- ders and face muscles feel relaxed. A warmth flows into your chest with each breath. Your mind feels calm, crisp, and aware like that of an animal walking through the forest. The tar of bad experiences that have built up inside of you melts away. You feel your feet touching the ground and the ground touching your feet.
You don’t feel compelled to grab at the thoughts that are flowing by in your mind. There is no longer a voice inside your head pressur- ing you to “Go! Go! Go!” and “Get it done yesterday.” You’re cool. That voice in your head seems to have been charmed by the show of life passing into the windows of your eyes. That striking, beautiful display starts to feel like enough. Life doesn’t feel scarce like something you have to grab and hide away in a safe place so no one else can take it from you. It’s right there. And there is so much of it. Then, something else starts to happen as your attention connects with now.
This makes you feel connected to everything. You feel life weaving in and out of you and you begin to understand how you are a part of it. Until now, you always felt like you were moving through life like you were a piece on a game board. Now you feel like you are life itself.
Colors look extra rich. It feels like there’s more depth to the space that you move through. Your body ripples from its core with a rising compassion, openness, and understanding. That feeling lifts up and out of you like a warm natural spring.
This is what it’s like to live with awareness in the present moment. What you experience flourishes with timelessness. You feel anchored by an awareness of what’s happening around you. It doesn’t matter if you’re standing on the top of a mountain or in the middle of New York City. Everything flows. Natural spontaneity weaves all the parts of life together without effort. A herd of deer running by exudes the same wonder as a cluster of cars coming up the street. Life is connecting with itself and moving along. It’s seen everywhere in all things.
Grabbing at Life
The way everything forms around and inside of us is beautiful, but it also presents a challenge. The constant motion of our day creates small thoughts, to-dos, anxieties, desires, and so on. It’s like pieces of life bump into us and leave behind a residue. We tend to ignore the pains of life that build up inside of us so we can carry on and get through our day. It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. We think we don’t have time to care for ourselves and that we can manage the burden. But when we ignore what we’re carrying for too long, our open awareness starts fading. Over time, we get further away from the present until we lose touch with it altogether. Then our momentum shifts back to feeling tense, disconnected, and compulsive. We’ve put our heavy backpack on again.
When this happens, we stop feeling like we’re flowing with our life. We start feeling like we are getting pushed around by everything going on outside of us. This is natural and happens to everyone. Modern life is too complex for our attention not to get lost every now and again. Each of us can count on getting distracted and falling back into bad compulsive living habits. It’s only a matter of time. The buzzing sounds and flashing lights of our modern world are too much to ignore.
The entertainment industry creates shows that are designed to make you pause your world and binge on them for hours. Politicians perform media theater in hopes that you’ll feel tribal and support them by bickering with an opposing group. Endless marketing cam- paigns ooze from every pore of our day urging us to buy needless things with a promise of making us feel whole. All of us are addicted to checking our phones every few seconds.
We spend so much of our time dodging the predators of our attention that it’s hard to not get tired, lie down, and get eaten. Plus, the whirring of modern life has confused what “downtime” should actually be. Many of us think that sinking deep into our couch and streaming shows for a few hours is a good way to decompress. While that can be fun, it isn’t self-care. Nothing internal is resolved when you dive deep into a bunch of episodes. It only provides the illusion of relief. Watching something entertaining shifts our attention away from what’s going on with ourselves. When we snap out of the enter- tainment trance, our attention comes back to reality and everything that was there remains. It’s more like leaving the phone off the hook than making a meaningful call.
What’s strange is that if you were in the peace of the present and someone asked whether you’d like to end that feeling to check your phone, you’d say no.
You know that checking your phone for the seventy-ninth time that day is a fool’s errand. We all know this, but we still do it every day. It’s amazing how fast we can go from feeling calm and present to compulsive, overwhelmed, and freaked out. The mind only needs to make a few small connections before we feel like we’re on fire. Over the years I noticed how fast this happened in myself and it made me curious. So, I started paying close attention to how I felt when I went from cool to edgy. I wanted to understand what set off the change in my state of mind, how quickly it came on, and how I could work with it.
When I’m feeling attentive and relaxed, it’s like my mind is sitting on a giant pillow inside my head. There is no edginess, pres- sure, or compulsive momentum. I’m nested in the moment instead of being of the moment. It’s a joy to float through the day and engage each person, task, or thought with my full attention. There’s a clarity there that makes reality look like it’s in high definition.
Then, out of nowhere, I’ll catch myself starting to grab at life instead of receiving it. I could be doing something that isn’t stressful at all, like filling a cup with water or making lunch. Then all of a sudden an edginess starts showing up. It’s like I have an electrical wire plugged into my body and someone is turning up the voltage a notch at a time. My skin starts feeling like it is sizzling with electricity. The voltage then tries to rise and take over my whole body.
This feeling can show up in such a small, sneaky way. Just enough to make me start feeling like I need to “hurry up” and make my lunch as if I’m late for something. But I’m not late for anything at all. I don’t have to talk to anyone for hours. Still, for some reason, my mind starts turning up the voltage. I slowly buy into the illusion. The edgy feeling has an urgency, a pull to it. Like it’s trying to draw me in. My mind starts convincing me that if I “get through” these tasks, I’ll feel calm and present again.
When you begin sliding away from the present, your brain sends you a message: Get tense, get tight, spin the pinwheel of your mind, and you’ll get on the other side of the frantic feeling. But that never happens. It only leads to a racing heart and a fragmented mind. The momentum of grasping gets you balled up in your thoughts and stumbling over yourself. This mindset is the source of much bad decision making. Anxiety takes over and makes you do and say things that aren’t really you.
Turning Down Anxiety
We’re of two minds: the watching mind and the doing mind. When we’re heavy in the watching mind, the present moment comes alive. We aren’t processing a bunch of tasks. This makes bonus brain power available to soak in the richness of experience. There are no life equations to solve. We’re able to sit back and enjoy the wonder of the answer.
On the other hand, when we get sucked into the doing mind, our brain starts processing tasks as fast as possible. The brain-machine kicks in and analyzes every possible to-do in your mind. It pres- sures you to “get it all done” so that you can get back to the relaxing “watchful” mind. The problem here is that in modern life, there is no end of things to do. You can spend all day, every day, doing stuff for the rest of your life. We get into momentums of “doing” and they very quickly morph into compulsions. Before we know it, our heart is racing. We become clenched with tension from the stressful idea that we might not be able to get done every task that we imagined. But that’s it right there. This anxious cycle of distraction is only an idea.
The sense of presence I described in the opening is the result of a balanced watching and doing mind. When your mind is aware and crisp yet calm and seated in the now, you can move through the day without tension. You can indulge in the richness of the present and mindfully do what you need to do.
Sliding into an edgy momentum is what happens when you try to rush past the present moment.
We miss out on the richness of life all the time, in big and small ways. Think of what it’s like to take a bite of chocolate while talking to someone on the phone. You put the chocolate in your mouth and chew it quickly so you can get out your important next words. Now imagine being by yourself. You pause and put the chocolate in your mouth. Closing your eyes, you feel the chocolate start to melt. The aroma enters the back of your nose, which opens another dimension of the flavor. Your tongue lights up with the complexity of one of nature’s most decadent flavors. If asked, I imagine that we would all pick the second of the two experiences. The difference between them is simple: the presence of mind.
What if much more of your life was lived like mindfully eating that piece of chocolate? It can be. All you have to do is work at it a little each day. Like learning any new skill, you get better at it with more practice. Lucky for you, the modern world is full of things that are trying to steal your attention. You’ll never run out of opportunities to work at it.
Start paying attention to when you feel the edgy voltage rising inside of you. The more you watch for it, the sooner you’ll catch it each time. When you feel the grasping urgency of your doing mind, remember the thing that’s driving the feeling is only an idea. Pause like you’re about to indulge in that full taste of chocolate. It’s the same thing going on. You’re just swapping “receiving chocolate taste” for “releasing edgy feeling.” Then let yourself release the idea that is trying to take you out of your presence. Come back to now. Don’t put that backpack on again. Feel the weightlessness. Let your center rise and thrive in your chest. Feel your feet touch the ground.
Open and let it move through. Watch and don’t grab. Remember that presence is patience. Feel the edgy electricity in your body fade out like a wave crashing and sinking back into the ocean. Be at home in the timelessness of now.