Monday, February 23, 2009

Learning To Be Here Now, Over and Over and Over

Today as I sat in meditation I watched my mind wander.  And I wondered to myself what keeps me from being present, right here, right now in this very moment?  And the answer I came up with is my desire, my clinging, my attachment.  What my mind is most often up to is planning, what needs to be done: a list of would do"s, could do"s, should do's.  And if I look a little deeper these things embody what I want to happen.  I want to paint this, I want to send that email, yada, yada, yada.  Each person's mind has it's own habitual pattern.  Your's might be drawn to the past rather than the future like mine.  Meditation and practice really are all about getting to know yourself.

So in the case of my "little miss busy mind" (at least I'm not a busy body), there's nothing wrong with having plans or making plans but we miss so much if our minds are constantly wandering off on little side trips of their own, instead of taking part in what is happening right now.  If I look a little deeper it's as if I don't trust myself.  My planning is like mom nagging the school kid just before he heads out the door, now don't forget your lunch and your homework and remember not to loose your gym shoes and button your coat at recess, (and 3 more yada's).

And of course there's the deeply ingrained habit of not being present, the neural pathways that  cause me to drive down the same old rutted road of inattention.  It takes effort and awareness and diligence to focus on the present moment and sometimes I am just too lazy.  I love the Buddhist choice of words for this laziness, sloth and torpor, one of the 5 hindrances.  Seems so accurate.  There I am hanging in a tree, just slothing about in an old sweater, with my hair darting off in every direction, kind of half awake.

The other reason we tend to go off in our minds, Buddhism points out, is that we sometimes find the present moment boring.  There is so much more drama in the "he said, she said" of our lives than say, just paying attention to a plate while we wash it, seeing every contour and chip of it's lovely plateness.  But because we never look very deeply we dismiss many things as uninteresting.  This is I think related to the piece I wrote yesterday on knowing too much, too soon.  If you think about the poor little plate, we are not familiar with it because we never pay enough attention to it find it interesting.  Mostly we skim the surface of life,  like dragon flies passing over the pond  looking for mosquitoes. 

So what can I do?  Well here I am aware of the issue.  So step number one taken care of, because if I don't even notice that I'm not here now, I couldn't possibly do anything about it.  There are stories of people who meditate for years and seem not to reap the benefits.  The classic story is one of a monk who spends 25 years in a cave and comes out to be jostled by someone in a line up and push back.  

Once I am aware I need to be willing to do something about it, really willing, at a deep level.  And then I need to set my intention to change my behaviour, whatever that is; in this case be more present when I sit and throughout the day, to not be okay and lazy about wandering mind, to not be okay with sitting on the cushion while my mind goes out for a beer and pizza.  And I need to be patient and kind as I would with a small child, to continually redirecting and persevering. 


  1. Yes, patient and kind so as not to add yet another layer of obligation to our burden.

    it occurs to me that the moment we notice the mind wandering off, we're actually present! for that split second of awareness: neither past nor future, nor fantasy. worth noting.

    opps, where was going with that :-).

  2. yes, it get's to be subtle doesn't it? we can use the dharma to beat ourselves up if we're not careful. been there, done that!

    and it is a really good point you make, that when we notice, we are there. This reminds me of a quote that goes something like "what we are looking for is who is looking."

    Thanks for the insightful comments.