This is now. That is anything that is not now. We typically go through life wanting, desiring, attempting to achieve "that". All the while "this" is what is. The difference between this and that is suffering. Wanting that while this is what exists. The simple solution is to stop wanting, being driven towards that.
Not so simple.
As I was sitting/meditating this morning, I was experiencing some typical things that happen in my meditation. (the next sentence is not an instruction on what "should" happen in meditation, just the typical cr*p that happens in My mind). So I was doing some pranayama observing my breath and state of my being. I noticed some visual cortex enhancement. This happens to me when my mind finally quiets down a bit and visual sensations become prominent in my awareness. In some of the mind rated "better" meditations, right after this visual experience, my meditative experience gets really still, so there I was waiting for "that". Wanting "that" experience again. And I recognized this whole goings-on. Why do I want “that” when “this” – the experience of quiet sitting with some visual sensations – is quite an amazing experience? I am still, my body doesn’t hurt, my mind is resting, yet I still want something else. I consciously decided to want “this” and stopped yearning for “that”. Presence ensued and I sat. In my morning meditation "that" never materialized.
So this meditation was one kind of experience of "this and that". One in which this is pretty good, but I still wanted that (perhaps it would be better). You know it can be very different.
I had a day this week when I found out I had hurt someone’s feelings and made them feel bad with unconscious things that I was saying. When it was revealed to me I felt many things. First I wanted to justify my terrible repetitive ramblings. Then I felt sad, and awful. Apologies were made and appropriate internal adjustments were set into place to prevent future stupidity and we went our separate ways. All day I spent feeling bad. Stomach uncomfortable, pressure in my head, very sad and withdrawn. I wanted it to be the way I imagined it was before – all OK. I could not shake the feelings of guilt, no matter how much I wanted it to be something else (that).
At some point awareness kicked in and I realized the situation. I had to accept that I was feeling bad and “this” was what was. I didn’t have to want “this”, but shifting to accepting this uncomfortableness and discontinuing the want of “that” comfort and mental ok-ness allowed me to be with “this”. I continued to be sad for quite a while and eventually it shifted. However, I stopped suffering at the point of acceptance of what was, not when the emotional shift occurred.
This is now. That is often an experience of the past, or a hoped experience of the future. Accepting this, what is, is a surrender of sorts. It doesn’t mean that actions don’t continue to bring about a desired result. They do. It is the letting go of attachment to an end result.
Pantanjali says that attachment and aversion lead to suffering. Either wanting things to stay as they are, or trying to keep something from happening.
Just choose what is. The rest will follow in it’s course.