If you recall, what we’re about is ending up this month different than how we started, engaged with life in a way new to us which leaves its imprint sufficient to have us notice ourselves responding to life anew. And remember, you don’t have to have a life shattering experience to create change. In fact, it is possible to have a life shattering experience which does nothing more than embeds your fears more deeply. So don’t pooh-pooh a quiet, daily pressure that births a new sense of life.
I have been a lover of Zen for many years. I’m not a follower of any particular spiritual philosophy. I pick fruit off many different trees, but the arrow-like nature of Zen observation of the world makes it a most penetrating experience. Zen focuses on a mind that is quiet, meaning not filled with the continual chatter that occurs in most everyone’s mind, night and day. That sort of quiet mind is a present mind and thus the person whose head that mind occupies is said to be present, or living in the present moment.
Now, I’m sure if you are reading this blog, you have heard that terminology often or others like it–mindfulness, presence, being present. But do we really understand what is being implied by this concept, for if the human mind banters anything around for a period of time is has the ability to suck all the sap out of it without even tasting it. So here is what the ancient Zen folk say, Master Dahui, in this case:
Buddha said that when the mind does not gasp things of the past, does not long for the future, and does not dwell on things of the present, then one realizes that past, present and future are empty (without substance, meaning or indeed existence).
Don’t think about past wants, whether good or bad, for if you think about them, this impedes the Way. Don’t calculate future matters, for if you calculate, you go mad. Don’t fixate your attention on present affairs, whether pleasant or unpleasant, for if you fixate your attention on them, they will disturb your mind.
(Now here’s the kicker) Just deal with situations as they happen, and you will spontaneously accord with these principles.
So here’s my question. How many times in a day do you deal with something that has actually happened? Don’t answer too quickly. Take a look. Maybe you just had an argument with one of your children and would take that as an example of being present and dealing with a situation as it happens. But if you are willing to look closely, you might find that what you were really dealing with were old fears, the past, concerns about your success or ability as a parent. Or maybe instead, you were dealing with future fears of what might happen to this child if you can’t get him/her to do as you wish. Or maybe you continue to play the scenario over and over and torture your present. But what likely didn't happen was dealing with the situation just as it was happening in that moment. Trust me, if you were, there would be little or no emotion, just a rational and quiet discussion of that current point.
So here’s the challenge, something truly new. Watch yourself. Catch yourself living in your mind, emoting from things you are thinking about, be they past events, future fears or dreams or present scenarios that are not actually taking place at that time.
Any success at all in this endeavor is a truly new experience for most every human being. Take it seriously, and for sure you will not end up this month the same person who started it. There will be more peace in your heart than you've felt since a child and so much less fear in any of it forms.
There it is: Just deal with the things that are actually happening and see how life changes.