The essence of the teachings I received on retreat this summer could be summarised thus: BE HERE NOW! That is, being present and taking care of ‘now’ is all that any of us can actually do. The past is behind us, and no amount of analysis will change the events (although analysis might help with our perception of those events), and the future is ahead of us, unknown and uncertain.
The present is literally all we ever have … and yet how much time do we actually spend in awareness of this very moment?
This is not an argument against goals, plans and timetables, nor a call for anarchy. Those of us living in the West might find the idea of abandoning all plans and goals very threatening, and in terms of our occupations it might create some further difficulties! But it is when ALL of our time, energy and efforts are put towards external goals, always chasing dreams or purchases or experiences, or forever pounding the career treadmill desperately wishing it would stop so you could get off but fearing the very moment when that might happen, that a crucial dissociation occurs. When we get lost in ruminating thoughts, emotions and feelings, about the past or the future, then we lose the very moment we can live and experience, and indeed change.
When I take the time to breathe, perhaps just in and out three times as Thich Nhat Hanh suggests, then my face relaxes, my body relaxes, my breath deepens, and suddenly I’m aware of the sensations in my body – those which just seconds before I did not connect with. This dissociation from ‘now’ brings with it many difficulties, or to quote a humble but learned friend of mine: ‘the past is gone, the future is not yet here – take care of now and the future will take care of itself.’ Wise words indeed.