Looking Back: Orpheus

As the end of the calendar year quickly approaches, television, newspapers, and magazines are reviewing what has happened in the past twelve months. Watching and reading about the events in the past seem to be the order of the day. Even at home, you may find you and your family reflecting on the past.

But in many of the myths, looking back was not such a good idea. Take the story of Orpheus, for instance.

Orpheus was a young man blessed with the gift of making music. He was not merely an excellent musical, but a charmed one as well. At the sound of his music people stopped what they were doing and were transported to a rosy inner world where everything seemed to glow. When Orpheus passed by strumming his lyre, everyone in earshot experienced a long and blissful ah-h-h-h-h-h.

On his many travels, Orpheus met several young maidens. One of them, Eurydice, touched his heart more than any other. Orpheus and Eurydice were married, and life was wonderful for the handsome couple.

Then one day Eurydice went out to pick wild flowers and was bitten by a venomous snake. Immediately she was whisked away to the Underworld. Inconsolable, Orpheus followed her there and begged Pluto, the god of the Underworld, to allow Eurydice to return to the world of the living. At first Pluto refused, but then Orpheus played him a song. Weeping with emotion, Pluto relented. He told Orpheus that Eurydice could return to the upper world. There was only one condition: his wife would follow him up through the cave that led to the light, but Orpheus was not to look back to see if she was behind him. If he did look back, Eurydice would be taken back into the darkness of the Underworld.

Orpheus and Eurydice were reunited, and they began the long trek up the cave. Orpheus saw the sunlight ahead of him and thought he would take just a peek behind him to see if Eurydice was indeed following him. He glanced behind him. The moment he did, Eurydice, surprised and disappointed, felt herself drawn back, back, back into the darkness of Pluto’s kingdom.

Be Here Now

The ancients knew the value of not looking back — and not looking forward, also. They knew it was important to be in the moment, and stay in the moment.

Modern teachers of wisdom concur. Samuel Kirschner has spent 23 years as a body/mind therapist and a meditation teacher in New York. Trained in the Zen tradition and in the vipasana style of meditation, Samuel has been practicing and teaching Mindfulness Meditation through individual sessions, classes, and workshops.

This is what he has to say about being ‘present’ in the moment: We can have glimpses of The Present at random moments: when we find ourselves quietly enjoying nature, when a baby is born, when we fall in love, when a loved one dies, when we’re stilled by beauty, art, music, dance, or even at times of sudden loss or great danger. At times such as these, we find that our minds are ‘still’ enough to allow our bodies to connect to the Present, without interference, judgment, or fear.

The 7 Principles of Being Present

  1. NOTICE thoughts and ACCEPT them. Shaking

  2. FEEL the emotions and bodily sensations. Flowing

  3. OPEN your heart to yourself — CONTAIN & ENDURE your experience. Standing like a tree

  4. CONNECT with Mother earth & ground yourself. Walking mindfully

  5. WITNESS your breath & surrender to the moment. Sitting

  6. RESPOND from the present. Dialoguing

  7. CELEBRATE being human. Dancing

Don’t Look Back

During this season of reviewing, revisiting, and reevaluating, trying to resist the temptation to look back. Instead, live in the present moment. The past is gone; the future hasn’t happened yet. It is in the present moment that we find fulfillment, peace, and joy.

Happy Holidays from all of us at LifePath.

A Guided meditation to discover The Present

Sit down in an upright position…take a moment to get comfortable…make an intention to take the time to investigate your experience. Put your attention on your breathing, breathe from your abdomen…inhale and exhale from your nose and notice the air touching your nostrils…be aware of and relax into your natural way of breathing.

Expanding your awareness, notice thoughts that are distracting you…don’t engage with them…don’t fight them either…accept them as thoughts that your mind is thinking like waves in the ocean or clouds in the sky; let them come and let them go.

Scan your body for sensations. Be specific about their location and feel them.

Notice the sensations of your feet touching the floor. Feel the connection to the earth and your hands touching your laps.

Open your heart to your experience. Have compassion for your life. Step into the present moment. Accept your peace.

Recommended Reading

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

(excerpt) What is the power of Now?

None other than the power of your presence, your consciousness liberated from thought forms.

So deal with the past on the level of the present. The more attention you give to the past, the more you energize it, and the more likely you are to make a “self” out of it. Don’t misunderstand: attention is essential, but not to the past. Give attention to the present; give attention to your behavior, to your reactions, moods, thoughts, emotions, fears, and desires as they occur in the present. There’s the past in you. If you can be present enough to watch all those things, not critically or analytically but nonjudgementally, then you are dealing with the past and dissolving it through the power of your presence. You find yourself by coming into the present.

Discussion Questions

  1. How often during the day do you find yourself thinking or reliving one or another past event? How does this keep you from paying attention to the task at hand in the present?

  2. Do you know anyone who appears to have difficulty living in the present moment? What are the characteristics of the person’s behavior?

  3. In the past few weeks, have you had many moments when you have been truly ‘in the moment’? Describe the feeling.

  4. List three things you do (or can do) to stay grounded in the present, and not be mentally or emotionally in either the past or the future.

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