Sunday, November 21, 2010

Here Is Now

Hakuna matata is a Swahili phrase that is literally translated as "There are no worries", in the words of the lovable meerkat Timon this means "Put your past behind you". Simple enough words for a task that most of humanity never really accomplishes in their entire lifetime. Who among us does not carry with us the baggage that our parents heaped upon us by raising us in inherently flawed manners, though who can really blame them when they themselves spent their lives coping with the issues handed down to them by their own parents? What small percentage of people have walked away from ex-husbands and wives, even ex-boyfriends and girlfriends, without an entire repertoire of battle-scars on their souls? Sibling rivalries, bullying received during our school years, a plethora of injustices met out in the 'real world', each and every one of us are bound with iron chains to the weight of decades worth of baggage.

Yet, what is the past, really? Beyond a hodgepodge of selective memories strung together to form a loose, hopelessly inaccurate and ultimately delusional narrative - one formed under the thinly veiled notion of an excuse for our behaviors in the present moment. And how much of our personal history, when it really comes down to it, do we hold even a modicum of influence over at any given moment?

On the flip side of the same coin we have the illusion of a history yet to be written. Would Timon's words be any less wise if we turned them around to say "Keep your future out ahead of you" or in other words "Cross that bridge when you come to it"? We all walk through life with our head stuck in the clouds, gazing out at a mirage that we perceive to be the horizon. To countless among us thoughts such as 'After a few more paychecks...', 'Starting next week...', 'Once begins/ends...' and 'Next time...' form the script of our lives at any given moment. We spend our entire lives focusing singlemindedly on the road ahead of us; yet, like a stray baseball to a window, this way of life can be shattered with two profound, simple statements: '90% of what you worry about will never come to pass' and 'life is what happens while we are making other plans'. We base our every decision on a subjective illusion of a future we intend to generate, conveniently forgetting that there are no guarantees that we will be around to see our next birthday, next month, or even the next day.

On a less dramatic scale we can see this same problem when two people are deep in conversation. With rare exceptions the person who is listening at any given moment is concentrating not on the words they hear, nor on their meaning to the speaker, not even on the speaker them-self; instead their attention is focused on formulating their next reply. Although our present actions may well influence the shape the future will take, what power do we really have over something which does not yet exist? Little more than a dream, we hold more power over the flight path of a butterfly in Tibet.

The only sphere of existence any one of us are able to have a direct impact upon is the present moment. Right now. Engaging in the moment is truly the only activity worth commiting oneself to.To live our lives focusing our attention on any moment beyond this one, is to throw away life in favor of an illusion. Likewise, to cling to the fleeting thoughts and demands of our mind is to fall willingly back to the deadly sleep of ignorance and commence sleepwalking our way through the remainder of our, now-pointless, existence.

Yet the present itself is a fleeting notion, it is something that can only be discussed in the abstract for the moment we begin to discuss it the moment has already slipped beyond the cusp of the present and into the past. Like a rock in a riverbed we must allow time to flow over and around us, making no attempt at grasping and holding to anything that happens. In the words of Sylvia Boorstein, "
Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn't more complicated that that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it." Only when we learn to persist in the now do we truly become powerful, do we truly come to life.


Jorgen said...
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Jorgen said...

It has been my experience that the actual past and actual future are much easier to let go than is the illusory potentiality of past and the potentiality of future (also possibly illusory). Modal worries and angst plague me far more than actuality. But this, I suppose is why it is so hard to let the past go and not to worry about the future. Mr. Mick dying I can come to terms with, but it was his potential to live that I can't get past. Not being accepted to any graduate programs in the future I can handle, but it is the potential of being accepted to some in the face of none whatsoever that is bothersome. It seems that each concept we must 'get past' is laden with myriad potential concepts of which the first concept (about actuality) is borne out.

Thus, if the Buddhists are correct, and *our* reality is one of conceptual nature (i.e. *like* an illusion) then is not actuality borne out of potentiality? And is not potentiality nothing? This, I think is what grabs us - this thing of which we cannot even conceive. And focusing on what we deem 'actual' makes it even the more difficult.

Crystal said...

I agree completely, coming to terms with the reality of what has happened and will happen is far easier than letting go of the 'should have/could have's of the past and the potential 'could happen's. By dwelling on what might have been we are allowing our focus to drift from the reality of the present moment to the multiverse of illusionary futures and pasts. The NOW is all that exists, everything else is just illusionary 'stuff' clouding our view of this fact; thus as we learn to live in the moment the excess baggage of the past and the future falls away, disappearing like so much smoke in the wind.

And here we find the true meaning of the words 'easier said than done :)