the three layers of now

Let’s say this present moment is the only birthday cake you can ever enjoy. Today, this present moment (cake) is just as it is. You cannot change it. You can wish for it to be different, but today, the moment, this moment, is all there is. Period.

The Present Moment’s Three Layers

Layer One: Accept the moment and enjoy your place in it.

Layer Two: Accept the moment and be present in what is.

Layer Three: Don’t accept the moment and be unhappy about the present.

We’d all like to stay enjoy a delicious life of layer one cake. All the flavors of life, all the flavors you enjoy, because you’ve decided to enjoy whatever life brings to you. This is our nirvana cake. It’s lovely when our life is layer one cake, and we strive to stay in this position of gratitude and mindfulness in as much of our lives as possible. Layer two cake is okay, as well, we’re not always enjoying the events of the present moment, but we are conscious of being aware of what is. What we can control (our attitude and presence of mind) and what we cannot control (the outcome). In layer two cake, we can still enjoy the flavors of life, but we have learned to take the delicious cake along with the bittersweet cake. Disappointments, missed commitments, and situations that are not going according to our plans, are all part of layer two. We don’t love all of this cake, but it’s cake after all, and we decide to remain open to the ebb and flow of life. And we know that we can only control our part of the experience.

Layer three cake is where most of us spend a lot of time. (Who came up with this dumb cake metaphor, anyway?) We’re not happy with the present moment. The relationship, or life event, did not go the way we wanted it to, and we’re bummed. Layer three cake is also part of life. And if we can rise up to the 50,000-foot view, we can see that life is indeed a cake, and we’re just eating our way through a part of it that we don’t find nourishing or delicious. It’s okay. We have a right to be disappointed at our layer three cake. We have a right to be sad or angry when things don’t go our way. Layer three cake may be bitter, dry, and choking, but this too is part of life.

How Do We Deal with Our Disappointments?

Present moment thinking is about being conscious of the moment, and our place in the moment. If we can look down from the 50,000-foot view, we can see our part in the events happening in our lives. (SEE: Going Meta: Divorce, Depression, and Befriending Sadness) We can understand there is a higher purpose, a higher connection to everything that is happening, and we can allow ourselves to be in whatever layer we happen to be in. I may not like eating layer three cake at the moment. I may not be happy with my current situation (financial, relationship, creative, emotional) but if I can see the cake for a second, I can grasp the idea that all three layers exist. I can’t always be in the tasty layers. Occasionally, I will be eating layer three cake.

But here’s the ninja move. I may not like layer three cake. I may not be happy about the present situation in my life. AND I have a choice about how I respond to the cake in my mouth at this very moment. Even with layer three cake, we have a choice. I can choose to be unhappy about what’s happening. AND I can choose to allow myself to accept and relax into the unhappiness. This is a very important movement. I can relax into my experience of unhappiness. It just is. The world is not aligned the way I would like it to be, and this sucks. AND, it’s okay. It’s natural. It’s how life is, at this very moment. It can still suck, and I can relax into the boring and uncomfortable present moment. I can eat my layer three cake and be aware of my feelings and thoughts. And I can simply accept them for what they are.

“Oh, I’m having a layer three experience. Crap. This is not what I was hoping for today. Oh well…” And here comes the relax and let go part… “I will be okay. I will accept and love myself anyway, even in this shitty place, and I will be okay. I can see the whole cake. I know that I will be eating layer one and layer two cake soon enough.”

If I can give myself permission to be unhappy, bored, disappointed, and frustrated as I eat my layer three cake, I can allow myself the full range of emotions. As I relax into the unhappiness it’s power over me weakens. As I love myself, even when I’m eating layer three cake, I can love myself just as I am. If I can recognize this moment as merely a piece of cake offered by the banquet of life, I can take charge of my emoti0nal response to the pains and dead ends of life as it comes. I can accept the now.

I can eat my layer three cake when that’s where I am. I can be even more appreciative and mindful when I’m having a layer one or layer two moment.

Life is a Three-Layered Cake

If we can rise above our present distress and the distractions of our disappointments, we can appreciate all the layers of the present moment. It’s all cake. It may not all be delicious. But our attitude about the cake colors every one of our present moments. It’s our attitude about the cake we’re being served that gives us the freedom from suffering. If we can enjoy our layer three cake, just because we know it’s part of life, we can really really enjoy our layer one cake.

Can you see the three-layered cake of your life right now?

Always Love,

John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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