The Buddha taught:
Do not pursue the past.
Do not lose yourself in the future.
The past no longer is.
The future has not yet come.
Looking deeply at life as it is
in the very here and now,
the practitioner dwells
in stability and freedom.
We must be diligent today.
To wait until tomorrow is too late.
Death comes unexpectedly.
How can we bargain with it?
The sage calls a person who knows
how to dwell in mindfulness
night and day
‘one who knows
the better way to live alone.’
-from the Bhaddakaratta Sutta, translated by Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay)
Aside from nature, nothing is quite as inspiring as being around artists passionately enjoying their craft. After rocking out with Hopkins (led by my friend Justin Hopkins) last night in Hermosa Beach, I had a chance to hang out with the band. The (ridiculously talented) drummer, LB, mentioned someone he knew passed away unexpectedly. I was reminded of this Buddhist teaching and it’s core lesson: there is only now.
Zen is all about being in the now and being mindful. But what does this all mean?
LIVING IN THE NOW
Living in the now requires acceptance of the past. What’s done is done. The past no longer is. This is probably the most difficult aspect of the teaching because we may have had a harmful or painful past, or we may carry regrets about things we may (or may not) have done. The unfortunate reality is dwelling in the harmful past is actually a way of chasing pain. We simply cannot change what has happened. Having regrets and being depressed about what has occurred ignores the universal truth that everything is happening for your highest good. Even if something devastating has happened, as long as you have life, you have the ability to change yourself…and thereby change the world.
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world.
Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” - Rumi
Living the now requires faith of things to come in the future. Anxiety of any kind is fear of the future. A person who is scared to fly may have anxiety about crashing. But what is meant to be is going to be regardless of one’s fear. Things happen, and having anxiety about an outcome only makes your time uncomfortable….or it can create a negative outcome as a result of your anxiety. Imagine interviewing someone for a job, and then having that person call you every day after the interview to inquire about the status. That person is clearly anxious about not receiving the job offer. Their anxiety (shared with you through the daily calls) makes you crazy and you decide not to hire them. So relax ;)
Living in the now also requires us to get it done now. It is amazing how we try to bargain with life. We procrastinate and defer because we think we have time. If there is anything to be learned from living now is that we must do it now. Tomorrow never comes.
To be mindful means to be intensely focused and aware of what you are doing now. When you eat, eat. When you write, write. If your mind wanders to other things in the midst of these activities, quite simply you are not being mindful. Mindfulness heals. Because you are living in the now, peace finds you. You are always only a mindful breath away from peace.
Stability, freedom, and peace are all found by restricting our attention and focus to this present moment. Now is really all we have. That instant is too tiny to be measured, but when our minds wander to the past or future, we lose infinity. Deep breathing and meditation are ways to get it back…but so is washing dishes mindfully, playing sports mindfully, or banging on drums mindfully.
Peace and passion dwell together :)
Photo source: Passionate blind by Cesar Gastoneta