Dear Friends –
This is my first post in a blog — Are You Sure? I will be writing a couple of times a month to open up a dharma-inspired discourse. I look forward to your responses and would be happy to post your writing or to announce your activities or events, if they are in the spirit of mindfulness. With gratitude to Thay, and to Gali Erlichman for her beautiful and precise translation to Hebrew.
Why the present moment bears the fruit of the future
One of my favorite practices is to go back to a basic instruction given by the Buddha or Thay — one I have heard many times — and investigate whether it resonates something different or deeper in me this time round.
And because the Buddha and Thay have done me the favor of keeping the words simple and straight forward, I’m not drawn into an intellectual exercise, but I let myself experience the words fully with my heart’s wisdom, and my eyes’ insight to feel its true meaning. I had this opportunity recently when following this week’s sangha reading on “hope is an obstacle” from Peace is Every Step, a new sangha friend asked a question I’ve heard often: “with all this mindfulness and hanging around in the present moment, how do you plan for the future, bring social change, or for that matter, get anything done?’
It gave me the chance to examine, what it is about the present that shapes the future. Later on, I discussed it with my sangha-friend Lisa, and here is what we came up with. First, there is the basic axiom: we will enhance whatever receives our attention; or in Thay’s words, those seeds that we water will grow. Gratitude will grow gratitude, and despair will grow despair, but presence with our difficulty may grow compassion, understanding, and possibly “the way out of suffering.”
Second, the best information about how to navigate the future comes from being fully aware of what this moment holds in all its renderings. Usually, when I have a problem I need to resolve, I think it through — which can be beneficial. But often, this kind of thinking becomes circular and repetitive, because I am continually drawn back to the difficult aspects and what they trigger in me. So when I can give myself my full presence, as in sitting meditation, it creates a space — a clear lake from which insight can arise – and that insight is immeasurably instructive because it hits the nail on the head. It doesn’t blame or berate. It’s truth. And it leads me to the next step.
The third reason the present bears the fruit of the future, is that our full presence allows us to connect with interbeing, and all the causes and conditions outside of “me, myself and I,” in our existence that play into how things manifest in life – all of which provides important perception into how my life will continue to unfold, and the reminder that I am in no way alone in this unfolding.
So hope is looking a little flimsy compared to the potent material available to us in the present moment. Yes, I do still indulge in little fantasies, but when I’m pulled toward hope, it helps me to remember Thay’s teaching: “When conditions are right, things manifest.” And as he writes in Peace is Every Step: “The well is within us, and if we dig deeply in the present moment, the water will spring forth.”