The Now is the only reality. It’s all that really exists. The past is a memory, the future is a fantasy, and memories and fantasies are just ideas, and quite inaccurate ones at that. Thoughts arise in the Now, but they are only a small part of it. However, because we are programmed to pay attention to the egoic mind, thoughts often take the place of experience: We think about life and think about what we are experiencing rather than experiencing life purely, without thought. Experience colored by thought and experience uncolored by thought are very different experiences.

When we are identified with the ego, we enjoy thinking about life more than we enjoy experiencing it. The ego doesn’t like pure experience because it is left out of pure experience. So the egoic mind tries to convince us that it has something to contribute to the present moment. What it tries to contribute is advice about how to live our lives. But the ego isn’t wise enough to guide us, not only because it is made up of conditioning, which is an inadequate guide for living now, but also because the ego and its values and goals (e.g., superiority, more, and better) are not worthy ones and therefore can’t lead to true happiness and fulfillment.

Fortunately, something much wiser than the ego is already guiding us—Essence. But Essence rarely uses the mind to do that. Essence guides us through inspiration, intuition, urges, motivation, and spontaneous actions. We don’t need the mind as much as we think we do. We only need it for functional purposes. We don’t need the egoic mind at all. That aspect of the mind is archaic, outmoded. You discover just how unnecessary the egoic mind is when you stop listening to it and start listening more to your intuitions and the spontaneous urges and inspirations of Essence as they are revealed in each moment.

When we are in the moment without giving our full attention to our thoughts, as we usually do, we discover that many things are part of the Now besides thoughts. The ego discounts these other things, seeing them as unimportant and uninteresting. If we pay attention to the ego, we won’t have a chance to find out about these other things for ourselves. When we finally become disillusioned with the egoic mind’s complaints, judgments, poor guidance, and version of reality, we begin to look outside the mind for true happiness and wiser guidance.

The problem with the egoic mind is not only that it gives poor advice, but also that it keeps us from realizing the wisdom that is available from Essence. Essence allows us to follow the egoic mind, while Essence guides us as much as we allow it to. Once we become more aware that Essence is actively at work in our life, we can begin to cooperate with it more, and life can unfold much more smoothly.

There are a number of things in every moment that we might become aware of, and they change very quickly. Rather than nothing going on, which is what the ego thinks, a lot is going on in every moment. In any moment, we may experience:

1.    Input from our senses, including energetic sensations, bodily sensations, sights, sounds, smells, and tastes;

2.    Emotions arising from the ego, including anger, disgust, frustration, sadness, happiness, fear, shame, jealousy, envy, guilt, hatred, greed, lust, and excitement;

3.    Thoughts, including desires, memories, fantasies, judgments, complaints, opinions, beliefs, doubts, hopes, wishes, planning, observations, stories, rehearsals for the future, ruminations about the past, and other ideas and conditioning;

4.    Communications arising from Essence, including intuitions, psychic impressions, inspiration, insights, ideas, creativity, knowing, clarity, wisdom, motivation, and urges to act and speak; and

5.    Feeling states arising from Essence, including love, peace, joy, awe, bliss, acceptance, elation, gratitude, happiness, and contentment.

In every moment, many of these things are happening all at once, so there’s a lot to give our attention to. Paying attention to communications and feelings from Essence is most important because they are meant to guide our life. Paying attention to sensations is also important because they keep us in our body and out of our head. When we find ourselves identified with the egoic mind, paying attention to sensations brings us back into the Now and into alignment with Essence.

On the other hand, paying attention to thoughts and the emotions that result from them takes us out of Essence and into ego-identification if we believe those thoughts and emotions. Without thoughts, the only “feelings” that would arise would come from Essence: love, joy, elation, happiness, contentment, gratitude, acceptance, awe, and peace. These aren’t emotions, but more like positive feeling states.

In any moment, our attention is moving around: It may go from a thought to a feeling, to a bodily sensation, to an intuition, to a sight, to a sound, to another bodily sensation, to another thought, to a sensation of the energy body, to an upwelling of awe, to peace, to contentment, and then to another thought. Every moment is unique in the experience it offers, and every moment is constantly changing into the next.

We don’t have control over what arises in any moment, but we can control where our attention goes, and that determines our experience. Any moment can be an experience of peace and contentment or one of upset and dissatisfaction, depending on where we put our attention. If we put it on thoughts and emotions and identify with them, we won’t experience peace and contentment. But if we put it on our sensory experience or the positive feelings, intuitions, urges, and inspiration that arise from Essence, we will be content and happy. Attention is the secret to happiness!

From Embracing the Now: Finding Peace and Happiness in What Is by Gina Lake

Copyright © 2008 Gina Lake

Gina Lake is a spiritual teacher who is devoted to helping others wake up and live in the moment through her many books, counseling, and intensives. She has a master's degree in counseling psychology and over twenty years experience supporting people in their spiritual growth. Her latest book is Loving in the Moment: Moving from Ego to Essence in Relationship, available on Her website offers information about her books and consultations, free e-books, book excerpts, a free monthly newsletter, a blog, and audio and video recordings: