presence as a participant

Continuing with the second of Thich Nhat Hanh’s primary teaching of being in the present moment, I will admit that being in the moment is a wonderful aspiration.  It is the point of practice.  It is practising.  I listen to CD recordings of guided meditations that cheerlead me to congratulating myself for noticing I’ve wandered into the thickets of my mind.  “That’s the moment!  Congratulate yourself and come back to the present!”

For the most part, it trundles along well, this distraction from and retraction to the Now.  Sometimes however, when I’m at my most snarky, I want to stop the CD and pen an email to the creator: But if the moment I notice I’m not here is the moment I’m here, where am I coming back to?

But enough silliness and onto some seriousness.  Frank and I spend a lot of time with beginning mindfulness practitioners who get really confused about what it means to “be in the present moment.”  The practice of mindfulness subtly promises relief from the heaviness of our everyday moments with phrases like “just be in this moment” or “rest in the present” or “know it’s a wonderful moment.”

At one level, it’s true.  Practising is very much about letting go thoughts of past and future.  It is very much about grounding oneself in what is unfolding now.  It is bringing a gentle awareness to the sensations arising and falling away continuously.  Over time, we cultivate a steadiness in the rhythm of letting go and returning.  Through our steady presence in this moment, we are participating in the experience, not being engulfed or buffeted by its wildness.

However, for most of us, the very reason we find ourselves thrashing in the dark thickets of our mind is because the string of moments presented to us are not easy to be with.  What then?

Returning to this moment is, in those moments, a practice of equanimity – a willingness to be with whatever pain is here regardless of our judgement of its worth.  In fact, it is a willingness to be present to our pain regardless of our judgement of our own worth.

Thank you for practising,


2 thoughts on “presence as a participant

  1. it is about the bittersweetness of the moment isn’t it? hearing last night of a Sangha member’s cancer diagnosis stirred a lot of feeling in me. How to be with life is good and then the difficulty I know, contained in this information, to hold the two in the same moment.

    Also reminds me of a catchy little title I saw in a Trike mag, something like “what’s so great about the present moment?”

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