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Lesson 1

The Now Position

Ask yourself, When I am not right here, right now, in the simple fullness and presence of my
being, where have I gone?
If you consider this question carefully, you will see that there are only four possible
directions your mind can carry you at the instant you leave the here and now of yourself.
These four directions can be represented as poles of two intersecting continuums that are
basic to how you experience reality: Time (the Past and Future positions) and Subject-Object
consciousness (the Me and You positions). See the green Mandala graphic at the top of this
page for a visual of these positions.
As you can see in the graphic, the Mandala we will be studying has five positions. The Now,
the Past, the Future, You and Me. We begin by first discussing the Now position in the center
of the Mandala.
This intersection point in the Mandala of Being can ultimately be understood as the place of
our deepest awareness, what is called in some traditions, the Higher Self, or the Holy Self. It
is presence: a fully alert, yet completely relaxed and spacious attention where no thought
separates you from your experience. This is our true self, where who we really are begins
anew every instant.
We have all tasted this state in moments of flow during athletics, or while engaged in creative
activities like dancing, singing, or writing poetry. It is why many of us want to go back to the
ski slopes over and over again. We will devote ourselves to anything that brings us into the
fullness of Now-moment aliveness where we are not thinking, we are just being and there is a
sense of joy, peace, and connectedness. But out of long habit, our minds quickly hijack us
into our past, future, me, and you-stories and we begin to view life through our thoughts
(beliefs, judgments, memories, fantasies, opinions, and so on) instead of our Now-moment
awareness. Instantly, we start to react and fight against what is and in this mind-made
struggle all of our suffering begins.

The key to navigating life with ease and joy is to have a consistent starting point. What other
indisputable starting point could there be but this present moment? The Now is where you
think, feel, and act. It is life itself, the only true reality. Everything else is constructed by
thought and as you shall clearly see, thoughts continuously take you away from the present
into stories about the past and the future, or about yourself and others.
Look at the Mandala image for awhile. The simple, but radical truth is that the center is the
Now, not your ordinary sense of yourself, not what you mean when you think, or say me or
I. Who you really are does not start with your beliefs about yourself, nor what you are
feeling. It does not begin with someone else who you have made critically important to your
happiness, or with anything else, such as money or your job. You do not begin in your past,
nor arrive at yourself in the future. Who you really are begins right now in timeless, non-
reactive awareness that can see any and all of that.
It is the power of this deeper awareness that can set you free. Your life will always go off-
course and lead you into suffering if you do not learn to start each moment from your deeper
awareness. How can you expect love to thrive in your relationships if your mind is in the past
comparing what you are experiencing to what you have already lived, or in the future fearing
that the present relationship will not be as good as what you remember, or that it might even
be worse?
We all need a compass, something to steer our lives by, a consistent place to start from when
we are facing anything life may bring. Grasping the potential to return the mind to the Now is
key to the Mandala Work. The Now is the starting and ending point of every inquiry. It is
crucial that you remember, and repeat to yourself again and again: Who I really am begins
Now. This fundamental truth is the most empowering thing you can ever learn.

The Now Position
Set up the mandala on the floor in front of you as directed in the instruction portion of this
course. Step into the center position of the Now and practice the breathing exercise below.
Notice the feeling of being in the Now.
Standing in the Now position, notice your breath. Breathe naturally, and feel the air flowing
through your nostrils, the movement of your chest, the pumping of your heart. To help focus
your attention on your breath, during inhalation inwardly say to yourself, Now the breath
enters, and during exhalation, Now the breath leaves. Do this for ten breaths with your
eyes closed, or let them be open with a soft, unfocused gaze. There is nothing to do, simply
notice. Let your mind be calm and open, yet let the sensations of each breath be vividly felt.
As you do this, set aside any thinking. Release any judgments about yourself, about what you
are doing, or what you are experiencing. For these few moments delete the need to
understand anything and simply be.
Lesson 1 - Journal
The Now Position
Identify times in your day when you felt the most relaxed. What was your state of attention at
those times? Were you alert or day-dreaming? Were you focusing on anything in particular,
or were you reading, or watching television? Write about the conditions around that
Next, identify times in your day when you felt the most spacious. Spaciousness is often
different than being relaxed. Spaciousness occurs when we are not focused on anything in
particular, nor being passively filled by a book or television. In spaciousness your mind is
alert, but relaxed and there is a sense of connection to your environment. You feel unhurried
and present. What are the conditions around that spaciousness? What is your attitude toward
yourself, and your circumstances? When were you spacious today? Write a few sentences
about those events and include anything you notice that may have created that spacious
Lesson 1
Who Am I Really?
Throughout my work with people from around the world, my emphasis is on being fully
alive, by developing the practice of living more aligned with the Now in daily life. To get a
better sense of what it means to live in the Now, we can contrast two very different levels of
awareness. Instead of our ordinary egoic awareness that is built on past and future and at its
core is governed by a sense of insufficiency and a desire to avoid pain and increase pleasure,
there is a deeper, more essential awareness that we can access. This awareness is innately
whole, and it can notice what we are experiencing and observe our reactions. It is this deeper
awareness that is the true beginning of ourselves, for it is not the product of the past, of
family and cultural conditioning, and all the hopes and fears that drive our lives. It is what in
some traditions is referred to as the higher self or the holy soul. This deeper awareness is
the nature of the mind when it is in the Now. It sees reality as it is and this gives you the
potential to engage your life anew in each moment and find peace within yourself. For
example, instead of reactively defending against fear, you can turn your Now awareness
toward any fear. You can become present with this fear, hold it consciously, be gentle with
yourself, and begin to master fears reflex to close your heart and blind you.
This power of deeper awareness to bring you present for whatever life offers is the key to all
consciousness growth. This is why I teach that, Who you really are always begins right
now. Your true self, your only true story, begins right now in the quality of attention you
bring to your experience because your deeper awareness is an ever-renewing continuum of
immediacy and original presence that gives you the power to be in relationship to your
experience instead of reflexively reacting to defend your ego.
In daily life, at the level of the ego that is unconsciously living in past/future/me/you
thoughts, we typically find ourselves reacting to circumstances, such as someone elses
moods or behaviors, or an unexpected change, such as the loss of a job. We become victims
of circumstances, and with so many things influencing us, it is easy to react and feel
overwhelmed. Or we paint over these feelings and create a "can do" identity that gives us a
sense of power and control. Either choice has its own form of unnecessary stress and
suffering. But when you realize, My true story, my real self, starts Now, then you
understand that you always have the power to determine what you want to live and the
quality of how you live it. Instead of blaming the past or someone else for what you are
experiencing, you bring your awareness into the Now and see that we can always begin a new
relationship to whatever is happening. Instead of needing to feel safe and in control you can
begin to appreciate the flow of life and enjoy experimenting with your creativity and natural
In this lesson we explore the question, Who am I, really?
As soon as you ask yourself this question, your mind will automatically start to give you
conceptual answers. Some ideas about yourself, some me-stories will appear in your mind: I
am a loving person. I am someone who likes to spend time in nature. Ask yourself the
question, Who am I? and carefully examine these me-stories. Try to see each one as a clear
thought and notice what that thought creates in you, what feeling or emotion it produces. In
fact, in every moment of our lives, there is a ceaseless flow of thoughts flowing through our
minds. Many go by unnoticed, but there are some that we unconsciously identify with. When
we do, these thoughts then hijack our awareness and become our sense of self. For example,
we might ignore a thought about it being a warm day, but in the next instant suddenly grasp
at a thought about not being ready for the afternoon presentation at work. The instant your
awareness is hijacked by this latter thought you become agitated and anxious. In this exercise,
however, we are not unconsciously grasping a thought and letting it capture us, we are
intentionally asking the question, Who am I? and looking at each me-story answer.
To take this inquiry deeper and create some objectivity and distance from these me-stories, let
us use the metaphor of a kite, the sky in which it is flying, and someone who is flying the
kite. With this metaphor, imagine that each answer to the question, Who am I? is a kite
flying in the sky of your mind. Before you asked the question, there were surely other
thoughts, other images floating in the sky of your mind. But with the question, Who am I?
new kites thoughts about who you imagine or believe yourself to be suddenly appear in
your mental sky. The question directed your attention to find an answer. The answer is the
kite. It is your attention that keeps the answer in your mind, just as a string keeps a real kite in
the sky.
Now we can take the crucial next step in this exercise: Imagine yourself looking up the string
of your attention at a specific one of your me-story answers. Just as you would be able to see
the string leading up to a real kite and follow it back to the kite flyer, try to do the same thing
with your mental kite. Sense how your attention is connecting you to the me-story kite and
then gently reverse the direction of your attention away from the me-story and toward where
your attention begins. What do you experience? Let your mind be spacious and relaxed as
you attempt to find the aspect of yourself that is the source of your attention. Can you find it?
What do you find? Observe softly but carefully.
If you believe you have found the source of your attention, what do you call that? Suppose
you say, It is me. How do you describe this me? Isnt whatever you say just another kite
in your mind? Isnt there always a deeper awareness at the source of whatever new way of
describing or defining yourself that ultimately remains ineffable?
This question and learning to follow attention back to its source can lead you into meditation.
Meditation is the practice of observing whatever arises in the mind without letting it hijack
your sense of self. The true answer to the question, Who am I really? is never a thought,
never any thing but is rather a spacious, open, silent, wakeful awareness. The deeper we go
into this spacious awareness the more we connect with intuitive knowing about ourselves and
life. From the depths of awareness we become wise.
To live from the beginning of yourself you need a strong mind. A strong mind rests in the
Now; it is spacious, alert and calm. It sees the kites and is rarely, or only briefly, hijacked
by them. Its perceptions are vivid. A strong mind can narrow its focus and concentrate when
the situation calls for it, but as soon as that requirement is over it returns immediately to a
spacious, restful, vividly awake awareness. In contrast, a weak mind may have trouble
focusing, or as is the case for most people, it can focus well as long as it has a task. But, as
soon as it is not concentrating on a task, it becomes restless and agitated and is constantly
hijacked by past, future, me- and you-stories. A strong mind simply resting in the Now
experiences fullness. A weak mind, when not concentrating, needs to constantly be
stimulated from outside usually by TV, magazines, or some other form of external input.
Whatever the input, the weaker the mind, the greater the need for intensity. The work you are
about to do will help you develop a strong, spacious mind.

Lesson 1 - Activity
Who Am I Really?
When our attention is in the Now we are always at the beginning of ourselves: the state of
presence where we exert the most direct influence on our lives and have the most energy to
meet whatever is happening.
The heart of the Mandala work revolves around remembering to return your attention to the
present, always starting from Now as soon as you complete some mental project requiring
concentration such as doing your work, or as soon as you perceive yourself hijacked into
emotional contraction by a past, future, me or you-story. To practice this spread the Mandala
out before you and step into the center: the Now position. By taking a physical step into the
center, you are utilizing spatial orientation to both symbolize and reinforce an actual shift of
your attention into the present. Standing in the center, say to yourself: "Who I am begins
Now." With this thought, bring your mind into a receptive, but calm openness. Open to the
moment as it is. Recognize how much your mind is always creating some reference by which
to compare this moment, and this you, to previous moments and a stream of remembered
yous stretching back into the past. Notice the tendency for expectancy: not this moment as it
is, but also the intrinsic anticipation "where does this lead, what will happen next?"
Stay in this new openness, relaxed but alert. Allow your breathing to be natural and
uncontrolled. Check for any tension in your body and let that soften; soften any sense of
muscle holding or armoring. Stay like this for five minutes and notice whatever movement of
your mind tries to hijack your attention, perhaps into thoughts about a future event, or
reviewing a past incident. Dont resist the minds movement. Observe it. And especially
dont create tension by trying to stay in the Now. Just notice what has hijacked your attention
and then gently repeat the thought, "Who I am begins Now," and return to alert, relaxed,
presence. Repeat this question and this shift into the Now as often as you are willing to
throughout the day. Begin to notice what regularly hijacks your attention and feel the choice
to realize: "Who I really am begins Now."
Lesson 1 - Journal
Who Am I Really?
When you are in the center of the Mandala, say to yourself, "Who I really am begins Now."
This is a shift into a calm, yet alert, spacious awareness.
Write what this state feels like. What happens to your perceptions? How does
experience of your breathing change? How is this different from how you usually are?
Drawing from this lessons activity, write the specific thoughts and the actual details
of the scenarios your mind created that hijacked your attention away from the Now.
What feelings or emotions did these thoughts and scenarios create?
As compared to your experience when you realize, "Who I am begins Now," who do
you become when you collapse into your stories? How do you see yourself, others,
and the situation in general when you lose connection to your Now-ness?
Can you recognize a pattern in the ways your attention is captured in terms of whether
it is mostly past/future-stories, or about yourself or others? Can you recognize a
pattern in terms of the emotional environment that is created?
How does it help you to think to yourself, "Who I am begins Now"?