There is an ancient enlightenment teaching from the East regarding the importance of concentrating the mind in the present moment as opposed to the past or the future. In this pose, inner peace is found as opposed to the turmoil of worry or remorse. Acceptance of the present moment is a key to liberation from suffering. Developing the skill of resting the mind in the stillness of the present is counseled for spiritual practice.
Enlightenment teachers today have developed these insights into spirituality into a totalizing, absolutistic teaching which is supposed to be self-sufficient for virtually every need and situation. If you suffer, it’s because you’re not experiencing the Be Here Now or Power of Now or something like that. It’s hard to argue with the wisdom of avoiding unnecessary inner conflict and being aware of the present moment, but I am certain that these teachings are too good to be true.
Consider the fact that only a small fraction of the human population – far less than 1 percent – is seemingly capable of sustaining a permanent focus on the present moment such that they do not need to pay attention to the past or future. It is wise to question if it is possible at all for anyone, though I imagine that if gurus are able to have followers take care of the “mundane” details of life for themselves, or if they can live self-sufficiently in a cave somewhere, then it is conceivable that they could rest in the present moment constantly. And they could also make themselves virtually irrelevant to the goings on of “mundane” humanity.
The Power of Now and other teachings which concentrate on the importance of “staying present” ought to be regarded as spiritual technologies, not absolutistic worldviews as they are sometimes presented or held to be. As a technology, I believe these teaching has the ability to generate positive spiritual growth and create more fulfilling and well-balanced lives if it is put into use. It also helps in the attainment of enlightenment, I think, though it is difficult to support this claim without a longer discussion.
So I would urge a practice of remaining awake and aware during the present moment as a matter of good spiritual hygiene, for all the reasons that have been pointed out by the proponents of the Here and Now technology. What needs to be avoided is the oversimplification of the spiritual life by making this teaching the totality of one’s spiritual practice. For all but a very few, that would be a serious mistake.