Get into the Moment!
This article originally appeared in the May 1999 issue of Whole Life Times.
By Scott Shaw
The subject of time is a complex issue for the masses of human beings who run from one place to the next — rushing between appointments, with kids and family to take care of, and possessing only the desire to have a moment to sit back and relax. In this fast-paced world, the person on the spiritual path is not immune from these external responsibilities. In fact, their interrelationship with time is somewhat confounded by the reality that in addition to all of the emotional and financial obligations they possess, they also must program time into their schedule to meditate, be in contact with the sanga, and simply have time for themselves.
Historically, if we look at the usage of time, we see that in earlier eras the affluent took pride in the fact that they had little to actually accomplish. It was the working classes who had places to be and assignments to complete. For the aspirant on the spiritual path, they were only expected to perform a few simple tasks around the ashram and then focus most of their time upon meditation. Somehow this has all changed and currently to be interpreted as a being of presence you must constantly be on the move.
From this modern mindset there has been born an untold number of methods of how to organize your time, overcome procrastination, and be all that you can be. But, how do any of these methods make you a more enlightened individual?
From a spiritual perspective, many have detailed that you must make all of your actions, no matter how seemingly worldly, your meditation. Certainly, making all that you do an exercise in meditation is a great ideology. Most people, however, do not live in a world where their life is formulated to the degree that what they do, as a means of livelihood, is peaceful and structured enough to allow them to slip into a meditative mindset. In fact, due to the shocking reality of every day life, most people are so confounded by the complexities of day to day existence that they are quickly removed from any meditative state of mind and rapidly brought back to common reality each time they attempt to enter into a state of higher consciousness in association with their daily activities — there are traffic jams with bad drivers, aggressive salesmen, individuals who want whatever they can take from you, and so on. What then is the answer for the spiritual individual who hopes to come to a more conscious interaction with time in order to make the most out of it on their path towards self realization?
First of all, to come to a clearer realization about time and how to use it, you must initially step outside of the perimeters which this modern world has assigned to this concept and look at it from a more metaphysical perspective. From this, you will come to a more enlightened understanding about how time works in relationship to your life.
Time is an Alive Concept
Time is an Alive Concept. You can only measure time while you are alive and in your physical body. Certainly, there are many people who discuss transcending this physical plane and dealing with entities from times gone past. This type of sought after interaction robs you from your present moment, however, as you are either attempting to tap into your past or gain insight for your future. Thus, to come to terms with time, time must be brought into the Here and Now.
The Here and the Now
The Here and Now reality has been spoken about by spiritual teachers since the human race developed the understanding of a higher consciousness. Though many people have come across this teaching, few have put it into practice on a day to day basis. Much of this truly profound reality, which is easily available to everyone, is lost to the pages of books which were once read and then placed upon the bookshelf where they are left to collect dust as the daily realities of common existence again takes over and drives you to the point where you not only are bound by the desire for more time but increasingly are burdened by the fact of aging.
Zazen and the Now
It is commonly believed that in meditation you can transcend the boundaries of time and instantly entered into the reality of the Now. But, the lack of Here and Now reality is also very commonly encountered in Zazen.
How many times have you sat down to meditate and found yourself fantasizing about the future? How many times have you become frustrated because your mind was focusing upon situations gone past, causing you to become agitated? How many times have you counted the moments, while supposedly meditating, wishing them only to hurry up and pass so you could stand up and move your aching legs? All of these factors and many more are brought about by not entering into Now reality and experiencing its excellence.
Moving into the Now
At certain points in life we have all been unconsciously forced into the Here and Now. This may have occurred in times of extreme joy or crisis. You may have encountered this from an experience such as an unseen dog jumping out at you from the bushes and barking. Or, when you are traveling down the rails of a roller coaster.
From these experiences, hormones are released and our brains shift to extreme clarity. These moments of Present Reality, however, are quickly lost to the complexities of everyday existence. Therefore, to reach a more profound sense of Now you must embrace it on a conscious level.
Now is Where You Are
Consciously moving into the Here and Now is a developed understanding. From early childhood forward we are all programmed to encounter life with desires for the future and regrets about the past. Both of these mental actions rob your Here and Now and cause you to lose out on much of the moment to moment fulfillment which is present in every element of your life.
To begin to step into the Here and Now you must realize that where you are is where you are. You may have a million developed desires to be in other places, doing other things. But, you are not there, you are here.
Encountering the Now must begin Right Here, Right Now. As long as you make excuses to not move into the Here and Now, Present Reality will continually be lost and you will remain encountering an existence absent from clear understanding.
Stop and Touch the Now
STOP, right now, right where you are. Don't think about stopping — just STOP.
Look around yourself — see everything as if you are encountering it for the first time.
Take this moment and truly study the physical objects around you, even if you know you have seen them a thousand times before.
Let go of your knowing and realize the profound beauty of even the most mundane article.
From this simple exercise, you will begin to reeducate yourself to the amazing beauty of the Here and Now. From this point forward, each time you do something, begin by seeing it as if you have never seen it before. You will be amazed at your realizations.
Feel the Now
How many times have you been driving to some location, only to wake up and realize that you do not remember traveling the last several miles? How many times have you eaten a meal, never tasting a bite? Both of these experiences are common byproducts of the pressures of modern society.
Many of us, due to the ongoing onslaught of the modern world, have unconsciously come to block out how our bodies and our minds truly experience anything in any given moment. This leads to a life lived without any interaction with the Now.
Some people have created excuses for living in this unconscious reality. They claim that it is, in fact, a spiritual practice — as this will cause them to move deeply towards their inner being.
When performed in times past, delineated by an enlightened mindset, this practice could have been seen as wholly spiritual. When forced by the erratic energy of the modern world, however, this process becomes only a means of psychological escape. Thus, by living at this level, you actually remove yourself away from true Zen.
Experience the Experience
Your first step to combat what I like to call, Absent Reality, is to realize, life is life and you will at times encounter experiences that you may not like. If you are in the process of doing something you do not like — getting upset about it is the least enlightened pathway you can take. Of course, you can simply leave. But, that is not always an option.
If you are forced into doing something you do not particularly want to do, bring your Now into that moment and experience the experiences. You may not like it. But, from the experience, realization may be born.
Satori is known in the Now. It is not met by mentally blocking out life and living in a space of denial.
Feel It, Don't Steal It
To embrace the Here and Now, you must feel in the Here and Now. To do this, you must experience who you truly are and not attempt to block out any part of yourself for any justification — be it spiritual or otherwise.
Certainly, when we look deeply at ourselves we may not like everything which we encounter. We may believe that a certain aspect of our personality is less than perfect. We may feel that we are too focused on a particular desire, individual, or mindset.
But, is Zen about beating yourself up? No, it is not. Zen is about enlightenment and how to embrace Nirvana. If you look at yourself with an open mind, you will, no doubt, find that you are, in fact, a good person, doing the best you can to help the world around you. Therefore, let go of those time robbing self criticisms and embrace the perfection of your Now.
You Are, Who You Are
You are, who you are. You are all that you should be right Now in this moment. Do not live in denial about yourself or run away from your personality but, instead, truly embrace who you are. At that moment you do this, Now reality becomes one with you because due to the fact that you are not striving to be anything else.
Touching Your Now
Once you have consciously discarded your unnecessary psychological baggage, it is time to perform the STOP Exercise and again embrace your Here and Now.
STOP, right now. How do you feel?
Saying, "I feel fine," is not an answer. That is more of an excuse.
How do you really feel right now? Let your mind study each element of your physical being: your toes, feet, legs, fingers, arms, torso, neck and head. Don't rush through this. Really take some time and feel how you physically feel.
Now, experience your inner being. Take a long hard, non-critical look at yourself. Feel who you are.
This Stop and Feel Exercise is not a time to drift off into fantasy. It is a moment for you to come to a clearer understanding of you. As such, it is a very potent form of meditation.
It is important to remember, no one can tell you how to feel. There is no right and wrong. Your experience of you, is your experience of you.
Next time you find your mind wandering during Zazen, Stop yourself and take that moment to touch who you are.
Emotions and the Now
When you consciously enter into the Here and Now, you are not burdened by emotions. Emotions are mind stuff. "I am mad at this person because they did this to me." "I am happy because I am getting what I want and this certain individual is treating me the way I wish to be treated."
Emotions change because emotions are dominated by desires. You are happy when you get what you want, sad, when you do not. For this reason the Zen practitioner consciously moves beyond the controlling hands of emotions. How? By understanding the Now is Now and it is not controlled by something so temporary as desire.
On the Spiritual Path, the understanding which Siddhartha Guatama, the Sakyamuni Buddha, so profoundly stated, "The cause of suffering is desire," is essential to anyone who wishes to encounter the Here and Now. Embracing this knowledge, you have, no doubt, acknowledged how desires only last until you posses them. Then, you become dissatisfied and move onto our next desire. But, fulfillment is never found.
If you allow your mind to be driven by the hopes of new acquisitions -- be they physical, emotional, or spiritual, which you desire to possess sometime in the future, your moment is forever robbed. If you learn to love every moment of your life for what it is and what you have, life becomes perfect. Let go of desires and you meet the Now.
Now, Now, Now
Living in the Here and Now is a developed understanding. You must put it into practice to make it an integral part of your life. Each day, whenever the thought comes to you mind — simply STOP and truly experience your moment.
Copyright © 1999 — All Rights Reserved.
No part of this article may be used without the expressed permission of Scott Shaw or his representatives.