nowhere to go, nowhen to be


Our sangha was listening to Stephen Batchelor’s dharma talk from Upaya Zen Center the other evening.  It was, for the most part, a fascinating take on the raft metaphor.  Then in the Q&A, Batchelor slew that mythic worm, The Present Moment, which he referred to as a concept that Buddhists today have become overly attached.  I could have cheered – well, I did.  The idea that we can swing away from our mental meanderings and plop into a single moment in time has to be one of the most misleading and damaging concepts ever perpetrated in Buddhopsychology.

Most people I’ve talked to confound “present” moment with “pleasant” moment.  So, it’s quite understandable that given a choice between the dark places the mind goes to and finding that “wonderful” moment, we would want to strive for the latter .  It’s where we hope to be nourished, find compassion, or be comforted.

Reality, however, is not as cooperative; some “present moments” are unpleasant, painful, wearing, or boring.

And, here we are anyway.  Whether we like it or not.  That’s the truth of having nowhere to go.

It’s in the “I-didn’t-mean-this-kind-of-present-moment” that practice can be a way of avoiding what is going on and we start doing things that amount to scouting around for a different “present moment.”

Even Thich Nhat Hanh (synonymous with the teaching of being in the present moment) writes

Thay Day 1 copy

The more deeply we penetrate into life, the more we see its miracles and the more we see its heartbreaking and terrifying events. Have you seen the life of a spider?  Have you lived through a war?  Have you seen torture, prison, and killing?  Have you seen a pirate rape a young girl on the high seas? (from The Sun My Heart)

Experiences come as a package deal.  Highs, lows, and in-betweens; good, bad, and who-the-heck-knows.   That’s the reality of having nothing to do and no other moment in which to do it.

Thank you for practising,