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May 9th, 2020
Much of our day, perhaps all of it in many cases, and much of our life is spent grasping for something new, something different, something other than what we currently have. We find ourselves overcome with an unpleasant feeling so we reach for comfort food, or perhaps we reach for the gym bag. Both, regardless of how effective they are in the short term or long term are strategies for dealing with the present, a present that we often find ourselves trying to escape.
When sitting down the the aim of being more present, we apply the same tactic. We try to grasp for something. But what is the present, and how does one touch it?
At once it’s always with us and yet always seems to be receding.
Trying to grasp the present is much like cupping hands and scooping some water out of a swift river. Did you end up with that part of the river? Or is that spot suddenly overrun with more water from upstream? Does the pocket of water from which the hands took not rush off downstream, as though into the past? What exactly do we end up with in our hands if not just a memory of trying to grasp something that eludes our touch?
All of our grasping, reaching and yearning happens inside of the present. To grasp at it is like trying to shade one’s eyes in order to get a better view of the sun- it is what allows us to see everything else, and to look directly at the sun, we have to do something counter-intuitive, we have to put a special set of filters in the way. The present requires a similar sort of counter-intuitive approach.
In order to touch the present, we must let everything else be at rest. Let the memory of that event yesterday fade, let the monologue fizzle, let the hopes and dreams of the future dissolve, and then for a moment, we sense the present reaching for our mind. Some sort of glimmer, something both new, fresh, and very old seems to occur. Then we are lost to the handsy whims of the mind picking up some new source of attention, be it that thing you forgot to do or the breakfast you can’t wait to have.
The only way to hold on to the present moment is to let go of everything else.