Now: Embracing the Present Moment, Rick Singer

Don’t we all love quotes books? There’s a reason quotes websites are so popular.

Richard Singer has come out with a book in which he first gathers inspiring quotes on ‘living in the now’ and then comments on them, showing how you can transform your life by living those quotes.

That really could be the end of my review, couldn’t it?

However, I have to say, I have heard so much about ‘living in the now’ that I’ve grown quite tired of the theme. This book does not dispel that boredom, but it does cover living in the now in a way that avoids repeating what we’ve all heard before and is never superficial. That’s quite an accomplishment, actually.

Another accomplishment – I may just end up rereading this book. This is not the type of book one reads from cover to cover – though I tried, for this review. Instead it’s the kind of book you put on your bedside table and open at random for inspiration.

Just to give you a taste:

84. The future depends on what we do in the present, Gandhi

What you do in each moment ultimately adds up to be your future. There is no reason to worry or fret about the future because you have control of what you do with every moment you live today. Create the best moments you possibly can and your future will consist of all that you desire. Discontinue your habitual need to pollute the present with regret and guilt from the past and constant worries about the future. Center yourself and exude excellence in the NOW and the future you desire will take care of itself.

Do It Now

Focus all of your thoughts and energy in the present moment and begin orchestrating the future that belongs to you. You can be sure if you live in the past and project yourself into the future you will never have what you desire.

Oh boy. That second bit makes it reasonably alright, especially since elsewhere in the book Richard makes it clear he’s not talking about becoming rich or anything like that. He’s talking about becoming happy.

This ‘living in the now’ business came home to me quite forcefully when I was visiting a friend. He’s in his 60s, lives in an apartment a hundred yards from the house he grew up in, but had to sell due to an ugly divorce. He has medical problems. The money he gained from the sale of the house is mostly gone on refurbishing this apartment and expensive holidays. An upstairs neighbor abuses her children and makes them throw things on the floor so he will be forced by the noise to move out.

Why was all that money spent? Well, the medical problems were less in a hot country and there was a need to avoid those new neighbors. Yet he does NOT want to move elsewhere, because this is the street he grew up in. How was the spending spree rationalized? You guessed it: ‘living in the now’.

But money is options. With the money invested in the furnishings of the new (rented) apartment, it’s gone if he ever decides that enough is enough and he needs to be elsewhere.

When Richard talks about ‘orchestrating your life’, I’m sure he doesn’t mean spend as fast as you earn. It means making sure that you find a way to be able to live the life you want to live not only today, but ten years from now.

If I did star reviews, I’d give this book a 4 star rating. I’m sure many people will love it. However – since Richard Singer doesn’t include any of the ‘but’s that I just put in, I’m not going to give it a 5 star rating. In other words: it didn’t make me think enough.

But still, even if you don’t like what Singer has to say ABOUT the quotes (his style is a bit pompous at times), the quotes themselves really are well selected. Some of them really are quite deep. For instance:

94. When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life in such a manner that when you die the world cries and you rejoice. Indian Saying

96. Simplicity is the most difficult of all things. Swami Ajaya, PhD

87. We must use all opportunities to practice the truth, to improve ourselves instead of waiting for a time we think we will be less busy. His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Now those aren’t easy platitudes, are they? And the thing is they aren’t really about living in the now. They’re about living authentically, in a way that doesn’t impose itself on the world by taking too much.

The second half of the book is testimonies of other people sharing how THEY live in the now. It’s mostly women. One that impressed me was the real life story of Mary McManus who shares the uphill battle her life has been: from an abusive home and childhood polio, to hard working but stressed success, to ‘post polio syndrom’  – which turned her life upside down. Learning to live with that disease and reinvent herself was quite a struggle. She went from being able to walk only a few steps, to completing the Boston Marathon.

As I experienced myself when dealing with sciatica a few months ago, when disease hits the only thing we can do is live in the moment. When all options are gone, all that’s left is simply accept what is, and tentatively find out each option by trying.

Living in the now helps balance out those of us who have a tendency to plan too much, think too much, dream too much. And it helps especially when life gets tough. However – and I guess that’s my point (not Richard’s) that doesn’t mean we can avoid planning and thinking and dreaming altogether. Or that we should.