We humans spend so much of our lives waiting: for the bus or train, in traffic, in the dentist’s office, in the checkout line, for vacation. Waiting to be 21 and then waiting for retirement. In a blink of an eye, our entire lives have passed in waiting for the next event or experience. Often we miss the moment we are living through because our minds are preoccupied with looking to the future. Yet the future doesn’t really exist; it is always running ahead of us, tempting us to forget where we are now.

The wisdom handed down from spiritual teachers like Ram Dass is to “Be here now.” Because now is all we have. The fantasy of the future and the memory of the past are mental distractions, which often keep us stuck in dissatisfaction. If we can learn to focus on each moment, appreciation and peace of mind arise and help us relax into being instead of aspiring.

I was thinking of this recently when Anne and I stayed at Kripalu Yoga Center in Lenox, Massachusetts, for a few days. Daily life there is very simple: yoga, meditation, meals, walking in Nature, resting or reading. No TV or video; cell phones restricted to use in one room only. Breakfast is silent; quiet, contemplative presence is encouraged. Coming from the external world of noise and activity, Kripalu visitors may discover that it takes consciously letting go to become aligned with a state of being that is actually quite natural to all of us.

At home, I meditate and do yoga every day as well as walk quietly in Nature, so this was not new. However, at Kripalu, I found myself facing my habits of checking emails and going online for one reason or another. Daily routines of busyness. Without them, I realized I was “waiting” for the next meal or yoga session, feeling a bit lost. Even though I have been to Kripalu and other retreat centers many times, this awareness of my own “waiting” mindset was a real teaching for me.

The energy of the external world can catch us up in its fast pace at an unconscious level. We think it is normal. Empty space and time can feel odd. And yet they are completely natural, and it is why I and so many people go to places like Kripalu. To live fully in each moment without looking behind or ahead. So, I sat with that awareness. Within it, I remembered that I could easily bring myself back to the moment, wherever I am, by focusing on some detail in my environment: a tree, a cloud, a person, a pattern of light on the wall, birdsong. Or my own breathing, which is the Presence focus in so many traditions. The breath is only ever in the now. When I step into that soul space of pure being, I stop waiting.

So, the best part of my visit to Kripalu was reawakened awareness of living fully in the present moment without waiting for the next one. It’s a practice, an ongoing reminder of how rich each second of our lives is. No need to “wait for it,” It’s all here, right now.