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In Stillness and Community

Making Friends with the Present Moment

--by Alan Zulch (Mar 05, 2012)



Some months ago, for three successive nights, I was awakened by three insights that came to me – persistently and repeatedly – one per night. The first night's message was: "Only the present moment is real."  The second night's message was: "You can trust the present moment." The third night's message was: "Make friends with the present moment." 

How do I surrender the primacy of my conditioned mind and egoic will, and allow – moment-by-moment – space for stillness and the arising of my natural state of awareness? Doing so, for me, involves a certain amount of rational insight to initially coax the thinking mind from its constant daydreaming in the foreground into letting go and taking a secondary position in the background. This shift is facilitated by the first night's message. 
 
With the mind's move into the background, my body comes alive, my hearing clears and ambient sounds are bright. I'm alert but feeling a deep peace…I'm fully here, having taken a "backward step" into the present moment. Staying here, however, is a real trick – an all-or-nothing opportunity. One thought – indeed any mind intrusion – and I'm instantly back in my ego identity. 
 
Allowing my ego to step aside requires trust – not only that a larger intelligence is holding me, but that it's capable of actively engaging in my practical affairs. This slow building of trust is assisted by the second night's message. 
 
Some days, when I am especially calm, I can ease into the present moment for longer periods…successfully relaxing into this friendly – indeed loving – universe. Slowly, I'm making friends with the present moment, with being, in accordance with the third night's message. Making friends with the universe is very, very enticing. Like a moth to a flame. 
 
My goal is to abide in presence, allowing being to inform my doing. It entails a fundamental shift of my identity, of who I take myself to be. Am I the ego? Or, am I the consciousness that is observing – with equanimity – from behind the drama? To the ego, simply being sounds dangerously disengaged. But now I know – gradually gradually – that being fully present is radically transformative and just the opposite of passivity, allowing one to be responsive rather than reactive, and in service to the need at hand. 
 
Ultimately, I can think of no higher aspiration than to become an instrument through which larger creative and healing forces of a friendly, loving universe can come into the world. This can only happen in the present moment, with complete trust. Gradually gradually.
 
--Alan Zulch


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On Mar 4, 2012 PK wrote:
I remember a scene in Peaceful Warrior movie where the hero asks the teacher to help him be in the present moment -- and do it quickly because he needs to go to class soon. The teacher nods and throws the student into a nearby creek. The student was caught unaware and comes out screaming and shivering with cold asking whether he has gone crazy. The teacher asks quietly -- what were you thinking when you were falling into the creek -- the answer was nothing. I could not think. Then the question was whether the student was worried about the future or thinking about the past --- the answer again was no. Then the teacher says that -- you were present to what is happening. your mind was out of the way. your language for that experience was --- aaahhhh.

I have found the same thing again and again. When I am in the moment, there is no language for it. Only after the moment passes, I can think about it, compare it or explain it. but in the moment, there was only experience -- 'I' was not present. 

On Mar 4, 2012 Conrad P Pritscher wrote:
 Thank you Alan for a wonderful statement.  thank you Somik for sending it. I find it very difficult to stay in the present.  I find myself staying in the present for relatively few seconds.  After attempting to stay in the present for more than 20 years, I am still barely able to be in the present.  I strongly believe that nothing ever happened in the past and nothing ever will happen in the future.  Only in the present can something happen.  I love the present orientation of Zen practice and gestalt psychotherapy but my love appears to be more intellectual than deeply felt or I would probably stay in the present longer than I now do.  Alan's article has reminded me of something very, very, very important.  As I mentioned before, when I could not stay in the present I must also learn to forgive myself again, and again, and again.  Warm and kind regards to everyone.

On Mar 4, 2012 David Doane wrote:
 I certainly agree with your statement, Alan, and your three insights/messages.  They're actually very basic truths about life, it's just that we humans often don't accept them and live that way.  I have found that being in the present becomes a habit, just like not living in the present is a habit.  Being in the present is a way of being that makes me in the world but not of it, which dI've come to cherish.  It sometimes means I'm in a very different consciousness than others, and that's usually okay.  Being in the present is alive.  Meeting the present, becoming familiar with being present, appreciating being present is to make friends with the present.  My work is as a psychotherapist -- I'm fortunate in that my 'work' as a psychotherapist is to be present, focus on present process.  Being present is psychotherapy.   

On Mar 4, 2012 Samata wrote:
Dear Friends,

May this letter find you well and in good health.

This is an very nice and interesting piece and I would like to initially address the idea of thought as a mental intrusion.  I feel that when there is 'presence', that is when we are in a state of being fully aware in the present, then there are no intrusions.  Letting go has become so natural that even a thought is allowed to arise and fall with ease and grace as part of this natural state.  There is no stickiness to it anymore, nothing to cling to, and therefor nothing to label.

Thoughts may feel very coarse, and even shocking, when they arise from a state of stillness - but this feeling of coarseness may be due to our attachment to a pleasant state of mind - but this thought has also arisen in the present moment, has it not?  And we can keep things simple by allowing it to be 'as it is' which is part of this natural state.  If it was not part of this natural state then why would it arise?  "Well I must have messed up something somewhere.  Maybe I did something wrong.  I can't seem to meditate without these thoughts arising."  Perhaps the point is obvious. This labeling is the crux here, not thought or thinking, not distractions as these naturally fall away in this process.  This critical discrimination is the opposite of discernment and insight.  It is a feeding of the initial distraction.  It arises ‘as it is’ and then we feed it and give it power, a reality, an identity. 

Generally we (that is you and I:) wish to hold on to a pleasant state (and even mistake this pleasant state as something important) so naturally any other state that arises causes our aversion to arise.  This aversion was already present in the form of our attachment to the pleasant feeling we have.

Awareness of the present is not pleasant or unpleasant, good or bad, right or wrong as these have dissolved into what simply ‘is’.  There is a space of freedom, and of healing, where all is understood and welcomed as humanity, as life, yet we are not caught because we are not deceived.

In love may you be well.
- Samata:)


On Mar 5, 2012 Ricky wrote:
I’ll begin with a quote from Richard Bach: ‘ You are led through your lifetime by the inner learning creature, the playful spiritual being that is your real self.’  After the first yoga practice I ever participated in, while the poses were frustrating and I was upset to find that the body no longer moved as I thought it was supposed to, I realized I was ‘home’.  As I remember this right now, I feel the same inner excitement and emotion connected with it.  What I experienced that day was the joy and peace of the present moment.  In this present moment, there is no fear.  In this present moment, there is the connection with this deep inner voice, deep inner knowing, what is true.  We experience at once the great expanse and the full extent of the breath.  There are few words.  In this present moment there is freedom from negative self talk, self doubt, shoulds, coulds, woulds…what is left is ‘yes’.
This does not mean we move through life in some sort of fog of isolation, no longer being fierce in our convictions…it just means we recognize this sense of the bigger picture, and can help others around us remain calm when the dream of the life we create in this experience conjures up unknowns and sends us on some elaborate treasure hunt outside ourselves.  This is friendship.
And, finally, it feels so wonderful to be able to set down the burden of ego.  Letting go of the dualism we ‘know’ because of years of culturalization sets our hearts free to love completely…this is a huge step for the inner learning creature…the creativity that arises from this Love constantly surprises and amazes me, bringing me again to the present moment.  I am smiling as I write this.  And so I hope it is for you!   
 

On Mar 6, 2012 Sue wrote:
 Thank you. I needed to hear this message today!

On Mar 6, 2012 Amy Maguire wrote:
 I am so grateful for this wonderful piece this morning.  In my second 10 day Vipassana meditation I had the realization, "OMG!  I have an aversion to the Present Moment!"  It made me laugh and cry.  Since that time over a year ago I have gradually, gradually changed my relationship to the Present Moment, and Gratitude, Humbleness in the presence of That Much Unconditional Love, and Forgiveness have been the central keys that have unlocked the Open Door to Now.  Even this morning, in mediation I was watching as my mind ran, thumb in mouth, back and forth between the past and the future.  Now, when it happens, I soften instead of resist...and Love More.  Your words are like a cool hand on my cheek and I thank you, thank you thank you.  You are a present to my Present.  With Love, Amy

On Mar 6, 2012 brinda wrote:
 Wow. Thank you so much for sharing this quote and reflections. It makes a lot of sense to me. When I am fully in the present, I am at peace with whatever is and I am fully open to everything. Trusting that you are where you are supposed to be, doing whatever it is....with open heart and mind.....life blossoms forth.

On Mar 8, 2012 Dinesh Mehta wrote:
 "Audio clip from this week's circle of sharing ..."



On Mar 9, 2012 LM wrote:
A few days ago I had a similar insight - that all that really exists is only the present moment. And that was the only guarantee ever. I had read about this multiple times before, but this was the first time I felt it in a very real, alive and visceral way.

This insight also showed me that thinking about the past can resulting in 'analysis in hindsight' and thinking about the future in trying to project the past to the future. Both of which make me lose trust in life and God and feel insecure. So the only way is to decide to be happy right now.

These seem rather simple, but somehow since having this insight, life has changed. Not completely, but bit by bit. Somehow the bonds to the past seem slightly looser. One way I think of this when I forget is the analogy of a line on a blackboard. My life is currently a dot on that line, and I consciously erase the length of line before that. This helps.

On Jul 14, 2012 Rich wrote:
 Totally agree with the insights but I admit I discovered them from the likes of Jeddah Mali and E Tolle. I too can relate to the trust thing. It's like you're driving them decide to take your hands off the steering wheel and pedals and hope you don't crash. At first the thought of letting my ego go was terrifying as you think will I forget who I am, will I not care about freinds and family, myself anymore? But the opposite is true you realize how limited we all are in just acting out conditioned habitual roles. I wasn't thinking. I was a robot. I can let things go quickly now even though I occasionally lapse but it's all. Good.