April 17, 2004, Lake Tahoe - Others write about the Present in other contexts. It is Ed Seykota who notices he trades better in the Present, nurtures this insight and integrates it with his everyday life. Even more important to his students, he is willing to undertake the work of sharing this meta-technology and its application.
So what is he talking about? What is 'the Present'? Everyone, of course, intellectually grasps that 'now' exists, usually defined within a memorized construct where 'now' is a measureless speck moving along an imagined timeline, preceded by an historical past and and succeeded by an indeterminable future. Schoolteachers enforce belief in this mythical timeline from childhood. They insist we believe in vast histories of time. They insist we rely on these beliefs. They train us to think of 'now' as very short, small, fleeting, just an interface between a vast, unchangeable past and a murky unknowable future. The English language itself reinforces this view, as describing past and future as real is easy. Speaking in the present tense requires an awkward syntax. With most mental energy thus caught in the past and future, the moment of now seems to barely exist at all.
We are describing a state of consciousness rather than undertaking a scientific proof here. If we hypothesize that now is only a fleeting instant, constantly becoming the past, and constantly fed by the future, then this defines a flow. Where is this flow? Which direction is the flow? Can you identify it anywhere? No. You can't, because it is just a belief, like the flat earth.
The first use of this perspective is to simply be present in one's interactions and activities, rather than daydreaming or wishing one were somewhere else. This simple pulling together of awareness boosts energy levels, improves attitude, and fosters contentment and joy. For investment managers, it means making decisions based on timeless principles, not from memories of what once was, or fears of the future.
Beyond belief, in a perceptive state we call the Present, those beliefs turn inside-out. In this state, we begin to appreciate that only now exists. 'Now' is all there is. It is an experience felt in one's psychosomatic nerve system where one's awareness enters the now 'zone', a tangible experience, where one sometimes feels emotional knots release from where they've been tied to past and future, and one's energy becomes more available. One feels more present, unburdened, undistracted, natural. One feels there is more happening right now than has ever happened in the past or will happen in the future.
From the perspective of the Present, we see the belief in time provides people a convenient consensual concept where we can store feelings we are not quite ready to face. The mental construct we call the 'past' provides a big closet in which to store mental snapshots and movies. The mental construct we refer to as the 'future' provides another big closet in which to put all the hopes and fears we are not willing to fully experience right now. These are both helpful partitions of the Present, as long as we recognize them as just that. We invest much of our emotions in these collections of snapshots and movies. Then we feel controlled by them, we feel a little apprehensive about that dark closet we call the future, and spend many of our waking and sleeping hours re-energizing it all. More specifically, we feel bound to the emotions we've stored behind these mental partitions.
It is one of our basic inner judges who creates and maintains this partitioning effect. This one governor judge seems to space out experiences so we can totally experience them at a pace which doesn’t overwhelm. Some cultures personify this judge. The Hawaiians call him Lono, for example. The Chinese call him Ho Toi. Hindus call him Ganesha. The Greeks know him as Chronos, this governor judge, the part of mind responsible for the persistence of the illusion of time.
In this view of behavioral finance, Judge Chronos becomes our friendly magician. From the Present, we observe more of his sleight-of-mind tricks behind the conscious mind veil. We notice the strings and mirrors with which he creates his illusions.
As we become centered in the Present consciousness, the rate of experiences tends to speed up. Things happen more quickly in our life. In the intensity of the Present, we experience a feeling that all is right with our world, because it usually is. Rarely do people have trouble 'right now'. What they call 'trouble' is a feeling attached to memory patterns, or fear connected to some event we hope won't happen. You can easily note that most of now, -- right now -- you are all right. Things are fine.
From this center, we can make more effective deciions in the investment world. The discipline of being conscious of the reality of the present tends to keep us out of the emotions of euphoria or regret from good and bad memories of investments anticipated or past.
Those who haven't tried it may imagine this gets boring, as they likely spend most of their day worrying about the thoughts in their 'future' closet, or mulling over the ever-growing collection in their 'past' closet. Boring it's not, as consciousness in the present awakens to a great power of observation. One begin to observe within oneself and others how intention is connected to results, how one's energy level is connected to awareness, and how both are connected to will power.
A practical application is observing where will power is invested. Everyone has plenty of will power, usually unconsciously dedicated to holding past and future beliefs intact. Then they wonder why they have no will power. Consider: those who say they have no will power always seem to have plenty of won't power. They have plenty of energy invested in the judges who decide what they won't do, what they won't release from the past closet, or the future dreamland, and they are very, very successful at this work. They successfully won't do all kinds of things. They are extremely successful at non-accomplishment. That's where all their power is, usually modeled to replicate what they have seen in the company they keep.
Groups working together to develop these perspectives are effective in that each helps others remain in the Present. Each discovers various ways his awareness is tangled in thoughts and emotions of past and future, begins to realize all is happening right now in some form, and to choose to completely experience the most bothersome and be free of its power. Or one can experience refusing, which one often ultimately finds laughable in this context, as old encrusted beliefs begin to fall away. Maintaining the Present awareness is worthwhile in one's life, especially when managing wealth. One could call it conscious capital.
In the Present we become free to make better investment decisions - right Now.