What we’re learning in Buddhist practice, and in Buddhist meditation specifically, is to let go of our attachments and our aversions, our likes, dislikes, and biases so we can rest and relax in now. The pure potential of being in every moment is now. Fortunately, we have unrestricted access to now. That’s fortunate because now is the most instructive teacher we could ever have.
Everything is Workable
Now helps us see that nothing has a fixed, unchanging nature. Not our living situations, not our personalities. And because nothing is unchanging everything is workable. Because now is as it is we are not forever trapped in anger or fear, depression or mania.
The present moment is telling and instructive because now reveals the totally alive and organic nature of everything including us.
You see, now is not as we imagine it.
You and I share the common sense idea that the present moment has duration, that it’s a concrete something. We imagine it as a solid indivisible bit of time. Yet, the idea that now is a static, ball bearing like moment in time is only one of many useful fictions that help humans take for granted that there is a stable, knowable something we call reality.
“I’m not crazy about reality, but it’s still the only place to get a decent meal.” ~Groucho Marx
These conventional fictions are useful. They help some of us worry less. They help most of us show up for supper before supper gets cold. The fictions give shorthand support to our matter-of-fact sense that this life is knowable. Yet deep down we know life and “reality” are parts of a mystery. Deep down we don’t buy the fictions, yet most of us really don’t like uncertainty or the mystery either.
Uncertainty and mystery can be extremely unsettling unless we make them our friends. Then knowing uncertainty and welcoming the mystery can be sources of liberation.
You see, in truth, when we aim to directly experience what we call “now” we find no static, concrete moment at all. There’s no thing there. What we think of as now, or as the present moment, is pure dynamism— never resting change.
If you watch the sweeping second hand move around a clock you’ll see it never rests… it never pauses for a measurable instant. Not ever. So, what we call now is amorphous, ever changing, never arriving, fleeting, ungraspable.
And, since things are all subject to time, now is the way things are—now is, in fact, the way we are. We share the nature of now with each other and everything else. And, we often suffer because we are not intimate with the fact that we are always only ever-changing potential.
We ourselves and everything else is ungraspable, energetic potential.
“The way to relax, or rest the mind in nowness, is through the practice of meditation. In meditation you take an unbiased approach. You let things be as they are, without judgment, and in that way you yourself learn to be.” ~Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
Another thing we might realistically say about now is that it is unimaginably un-thing-like. Now is nothing other than the wellspring of life—the ever-present source. Every breath, life, love, loss, great work of art, or scientific discovery emerged from the ungraspable, groundless now.
“In Buddhist meditation practice we are developing natural qualities that already exist within us as potentials. We are not trying to acquire anything special from outside, or trying to change ourselves into someone else in a forced or unnatural way.” ~Ajahn Amaro
It’s what Mother Earth needs from us now more than ever!
Because we are not intimate with the ungraspable nature of ourselves and of now, when we’re bored or suffering some discomfort we seek to acquire something special from outside to sooth us. Some people travel, some get hooked on drugs or gambling, others are on endless shopping adventures.
However, our constant effort to acquire is in vain since our feelings and the things we reach for to manage them are all subject to the effervescent now. Imagining otherwise is a major source of human dissatisfaction. Imagining otherwise is at the heart of endless war and the crisis of climate change.
Furthermore, because we are never separate from now, because every part of our organism is pure changing adaptation to change, right now we have the potential to let go or our daydreams, fears, worries, and fantasies and live mindfully and contentedly in the now.
“This is the absolute essence of meditation. We develop attention to this very moment; we learn to just be here. And we have a lot of resistance to just being here… But when we learn how to relax into the present moment, we learn how to relax with the unknown.” ~ Pema Chodron
If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to the SHZ Blog on our home page. It’s free. sweepingheartzen.org
Please visit a Sweeping Heart Zen event. We’re in historic Gloucester on Boston’s North Shore. Here’s a link to our calendar: sweepingheartzen.org/events/
I hope you have a wonderful week!