I pulled a red plastic chair nearer to the edge of my ‘infinity deck’ and sat down to look out over the city. There was San Isidro below with city lights getting brighter as the tropical evening made its startlingly sudden switch to night.

It was Christmas Eve and I was looking forward to the occasional fireworks displays. Seurat, my sweet dog companion, laid down at the edge of the deck and appeared to watch with me. I felt myself relax into the calm and took in a long inhale and breathed out slowly. A brilliant green fireworks display exploded nearby. And then there was a flurry of distant fireworks across town – which we couldn’t even hear until minutes later. I felt lighter. More content. What was going on? Suddenly I realized that the feeling was way too unfamiliar. In the days leading up to Christmas my life had become so task and problem oriented that I had not taken any time to pause and simply experience what was happening around me. Now. First my computer lost my mail program with the hundreds of email addresses associated with workshops and projects coming up in 2012. As I scrambled to rebuild or fix the problems, my house water pump stopped working. That was followed by Frank’s car issues and a toilet that quit working in one of the cabinas. I scarcely had time to catch my breath as I focused on one concern followed by another. Then my builder neighbor arrived to say that if I wanted him to remodel the kitchen, the three weeks around Christmas were the only times he could do it. And so it went. Each morning my mind jumped to the ‘To Do’ list that kept getting longer and the only time I thought I might relax would be when I finished the list or dropped into bed at the end of the day. Now I was finally taking the necessary time to just sit and observe. I was relaxing into the Now.

My life needed to contain more time for this. At the end of the day I know I feel better if my day has contained opportunities and space for relaxed experiencing rather than hurried efforts to get things done. A ‘To Do’ list too often focused me away from the present. Much too often I found myself either worrying (focusing on the future) or remembering (focusing on the past). I needed an empty page entitled “Now”. My mind played with the title of Jennifer James’ little book, ‘Success is the Quality of Your Journey’ and I recalled buying it years ago just to place on the bookshelf above my desk as an instant reminder when I forgot. The title reminded me to focus on the everyday experiences in life as measures of success rather than how something would look in a resume or CV.

Being in the Now takes some doing.

For me, I must be willing to stop and see the value in taking a period of time with no agenda, no preconceived ideas. The simple willingness to allow empty time starts the process. The magical reward can be a subtle progression into a deeper place within and can allow access to our more creative, more spiritual self. It starts with observing. Sitting on the infinity deck to watch what is happening around me is one of my ways. The sudden flight of an interesting bird catches my attention. ‘What kind of bird is it? I can spend time studying the colors and textures as my eyes move slowly over its contours, my mind appreciating the subtleties and nuances. Sometimes a reference book may answer one question and suggest another. And on it goes. I’m immersed in the present.

I notice the light on a leaf and the sound of a hummingbird in flight. And ‘down the rabbit hole’ I go. Pretty soon new insights are flowing in that may have nothing to do with the birds or light, but everything to do with my creativity and/or creative problem solving. If I can just allow my mind to wander and wonder in the present I am definitely not wasting my time. I’m gaining insight.

Once in awhile you get really lucky and find yourself skimming into the arena of your Right Brain, where you lose track of time only to startle yourself alert awhile later. It is difficult to set this up, but it usually happens when you are involved in something you really enjoy – something that captures all your attention. It could be listening to some favorite music. Or painting. Or rowing a boat. Suddenly you feel you are almost one with whatever you are doing and the feeling is amazing synchronicity and ease. You are the music or the brush or both the oar and the water. It may be just moments that you are immersed. Or hours. But a deeper sense of being and interconnectedness with all that surrounds you is achieved in this state. For a beautifully told experience of the right brain, enjoy the TED talk by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, Jill Bolte Taylor’s Stroke of Insight.

The Christmas Eve fireworks continued long after I climbed into bed. I woke to a few of the louder ones but drifted back into an easy and restful sleep. I was at ease and had accidentally prepared myself well by returning to the Now and letting myself just be.