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Beyond Being Present

--by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Jun 08, 2009)


All that past and all that future weigh down this one little moment here in the present: No wonder the present buckles under the weight. But if all the present has to support is just this one moment, you find that it's capable. It can stand up to whatever weight there is in the moment. So the ability to focus exclusively on what's happening right here, right now is a very useful skill. But it's not the only skill we have to develop while meditating. [...]
 
Notice the intention behind what you do, watch what you're doing while you're doing it, and then watch for the results. See the connections between the type of intention and the type of results you get, either immediately or over time. That's the skillful use of the past. Unskillful use of the past is when you run back to either getting happy or sad about how things were in the past. Unskillful use of the future is when you start anticipating either with desire or aversion or fear what's going to happen in the future. The one fear that is useful is the fear of the consequences of unskillful actions. That's what keeps you on the path in the present. Another skillful use of the future is your anticipation of how good it's going to be when you finally master this. But still, there's no way you're going to get there unless you follow the steps. So learn to recognize when your mind is referring you to the past or the future: What are skillful ways of bringing in the past or the future, and what are unskillful ways? Sometimes a skillful recollection, say, of the future could be, "Death could come at any time. Are you ready to go? If you're not -- well, what are you doing right now to prepare yourself?" That's using the future as a spur. [...]
 
So remember that there's more dimension to the practice than just simply the present moment. But the skill of staying in the present moment is one of the more difficult ones to learn, which is why we emphasize it so much. After all, where are you going to observe things if you're not really observant of the present moment? If the lessons you learned in the past aren't working, maybe you weren't really observant then. This is a chance to get more observant, more precise, with each and every breath.
 
--Thanissaro Bhikkhu, from "Meditations 2"


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8 Previous Reflections:

 
On Jun 12, 2009 Regina wrote:

Could not been said any simplier!!  Very insightful perspective way of the present, past and future. Hope to master this skill.  Thanks for sharing. :)

Regina, USA

 



On Jun 11, 2009 Patsy wrote:

As time goes on i find myself thinking of the past like a book i read. That child or girl or woman is "she" and somehow separate from me. Well, no reason i can't learn from a book, is there?

The future now, that is the unwritten book. But . . .i find myself thinking of it as a dream i might or might not have when i sleep again. That person isn't me either.

And even though my life is a good one, and i am striving to improve as a being, i find living this life to be somewhat of a mighty effort. I think one moment at a time is about all i can handle!



On Jun 10, 2009 Eva Vander Giessen wrote:

First, let me start by virtually hugging all the folks gathered in meditation right now in Santa Clara... ah. I am cherishing you all tonight. My thoughts turned on the phrase, "If the lessons you learned in the past aren't working, maybe you weren't really observant then. This is a chance to get more observant, more precise, with each and every breath." I'm reconsidering observance. Rather than being a process of evaluating the past and making judgements based on those evaluations, observance could be simply "sitting with" an experience. Letting a memory wash over me, allowing the experience to live fleetingly in my mind then pass. And consistently observing that process with detachment, with clarity. As used in the passage, observance seemed linked with learning a specific lesson, which rings of judgement-based evaluation. Observation as a means to creating more space - space absent of judgement - is striking to me tonight. I notice that wisdom comes easily with  See full.

First, let me start by virtually hugging all the folks gathered in meditation right now in Santa Clara... ah. I am cherishing you all tonight.

My thoughts turned on the phrase, "If the lessons you learned in the past aren't working, maybe you weren't really observant then. This is a chance to get more observant, more precise, with each and every breath." I'm reconsidering observance. Rather than being a process of evaluating the past and making judgements based on those evaluations, observance could be simply "sitting with" an experience. Letting a memory wash over me, allowing the experience to live fleetingly in my mind then pass. And consistently observing that process with detachment, with clarity.

As used in the passage, observance seemed linked with learning a specific lesson, which rings of judgement-based evaluation. Observation as a means to creating more space - space absent of judgement - is striking to me tonight. I notice that wisdom comes easily with this kind of space. Conclusions come easily with tight evaluation. So this passage served as a reminder to give my life space, and my memories of the past space free from previous conclusions. Maybe I can learn something new from observing the past in each present moment. Hmm... thank you.

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On Jun 9, 2009 Rod Templin wrote:

For me, if there is an awareness of thinking at all, (about past, present, or future) then I am not truly being present? The great tennis player, Arthur Ash coined the phrase "being in the zone". It refers to the mental state of a person who is totally absorbed in what they are doing and just allowing the knowledge and training of their whole being (of which the mind is only a small part) to function at its highest level. My own experiences of this have occured while playing an intense tennis match, skiing in challenging conditions, piloting an aircraft in crucial situations, and responding to an emergency, to name a few.

I do agree that the thought of either the past or the future can only occur in the present moment. And these suggestions for the skillful use of these thoughts are quite insightful and helpful. Thanks for sharing this perspective.

 



On Jun 9, 2009 Pam wrote:

It will be easier when you realise that you always create your future .... in the present!

Your intentions at this present moment, your thoughts in the present moment cereate tomorrow. Like the thoughts and intentions of yesterday created today!

And: "not thinking" is a very rare state, try meditating on positive things, on love, peace etc. It will make you loving and peaceful and ... will create your future!

 

Pam,

Curacao (Netherlands Antilles)

 



On Jun 9, 2009 dr mahesh hemadri wrote:

beyond being present....is  a  better way of  reflecting on your past and remain observant in the prsent...the other dimension which simulates thie kind of shaping our behaviour and learning

is experiential learning.Transformation for better living is life long process...not a one day

job.our perceptions and environment and biased events and with people who come with opprtunities and challanging situations all influence and shape our behaviour.just simple attitude influences our behaviour so much.all great scientists and philosophers who have changed this society not because of their orthodox thinking or living..but because of their

beyond being present status made their life in to most valuble and resourcefull .....................



On Jun 8, 2009 Brinda wrote:

Wow...what an insightful piece. Being total aware of and in tune with our present moments is essential and easier said than done most of the time.  I especially like the part of being aware of our intention when we are doing something.....that happened to me today in "connecting" with a homeless person.  I also really like the part about the skillful and unskillful uses of remembering the past and future.  Too often we bask in those thoughts rather than focusing on the present.

 

 



On Jun 8, 2009 Ganoba Date wrote:

It all sounds very nice and reasonable and logical. that is the trouble with it. This judgments are anchored to the past and inevitably drag the process down to the past.

there is no way all this can be practiced.

meditation is not a journey, has no path or destination. it is no tried and tested technique.

forget all the gurus anf their shastras.

just be still and silent..