“Satori (awakening) is said to take place when consciousness realizes a state of ‘one thought’. ‘One thought’ is the shortest possible unit of time… Thought represents an instant, i.e. time reduced to an absolute point with no durability whatever… when time is reduced to a point with no durability, it is ‘absolute present’ or ‘eternal now’… this ‘absolute present’ is no abstraction, no logical nothingness; it is, on the contrary, alive with creative vitality” – D.T. Suzuki (Living by Zen)
I invite you to sit outside on a pleasant day for thirty minutes doing nothing. Just sit there. No book or magazine, no companion for conversation, no i-pod or phone or tablet to browse the internet or text someone. Just sit.
I further invite you to stay in the moment mentally. Refrain from mentally wandering into the past, and particularly, refrain from thinking into the future. Forget that there is a future. It will help immensely to focus awareness into your senses and particularly your breathing, for your senses exist only in the present moment. Likewise, refrain from wandering to some place in your mind other than where you are. You will anyway, and this is OK. Just notice that you have and with sensory awareness return to the here-and-now. This is a meditation of sorts but not formal meditation. Keep your eyes open; don’t do mantra or count breaths. Sit comfortably but not rigidly, moving to adjust balance and visual perspective. Just sit there being present and when your mind wanders, bring it back.
I have done this with one of our dogs or cats present and found them most inspirational in their example. Don’t interact too much with the animal; don’t use it as a way to fill the time. They will have no difficulty sharing these moments with you. They, unlike you, will have no difficulty being fully present with no need, no urge to do something else (unless something in the environment calls them to do their doggy or kitty thing) and then, of course, what they will be doing is exactly and only what the moment is about. They will not sit there thinking, “I wish a squirrel would come by; I’m getting bored.” If the moment becomes a squirrel, they will become the moment with a squirrel in it. I invite you to do the same thing. Just be there with what the environment is – noticing, seeing, hearing, feeling, and yes, thinking the moment, only the moment. If there is a squirrel, be the moment in consciousness containing the antics of a squirrel, or the song of a bird, or a cloud overhead, or the rustling of the leaves by the breeze, or the sweet presence of your pet.
What I am inviting you to be is yourself – your deepest self, the goal of all Buddhist teaching – to awaken into your true, natural, Buddha-self; just sitting there. Eckhart Tolle wrote that who we are is “the moment arising in awareness.” Of course he was describing the true, natural, Buddha-self, which is what we all are – buried beneath a lifetime of conditioning to be someone else called an ego, a matrix of hypnotic-like suggestions from parents, society, culture, peers, media, etc. to be what they want you to be. All these are in conflict with each other, and so, of course, you are a neurotic mess, just like everyone else. This is what we’re here to relieve you of.
Eckhart Tolle once wrote that “enlightenment is in renunciation to get to the next moment.” I find this to be sheer genius, particularly in the choice of the word “renunciation.” To renounce is to withdraw giving your identity to something, like “I am an intellectual.” Finding out this is not as clever a way to live as you had believed, you might in a sense “renounce” declaring your identity as an intellectual. Here, Tolle is directing us to withdraw finding identity in seeking the next moment. You probably never thought of yourself in this way, but in truth, just about everyone in our society does. We are going somewhere with our life, and where we are going is into the future. Our identity is seeking its fulfillment in the future. The result is a great restlessness that drives us forward often accompanied by minor or major anxiety about perhaps not arriving at the place we want to be in our life – or even knowing what that is. We live leaning into the next moment. For our purposes now, see if you can stop this. Just sit in the here-and-now. You’ll find that it is not so easy, for we are restless creatures.
We are restless to do and be something because we have no understanding, no feeling that being is enough. We have been told since we were small children that we had to accomplish things to prove our worth, and this is nonsense. We are. The squirrel is. Your dog is. The tree and the clouds are. The planet, the solar system, the galaxies, the universe is. An aspect of enlightenment is knowing this, feeling this. You are free, in fact encouraged, to do positive things with your life, but the most important aspect of being able to do positive things is to be this one thing – you – most positively. This means that you know you as complete and whole and positive every moment not needing to do something additional to prove yourself. This requires you to be completely comfortable in the moment, just as you are, here-and-now. Renounce needing to get anywhere or be anything other than where and what you already are. Try mentally saying to yourself: “Here-and-now, I am.” Wonderful actions will naturally flow from that stability, presence and peacefulness in future moments that you need not worry about. When you get to those moments you will know what to do if you know how to be here-and-now comfortably in the “absolute present.”
For now, just sit in the vastness of here-and-now somewhere on a pleasant day and train yourself in stability, presence and peacefulness. No action you could engage in will be more beneficial to your life than this no-action. Sit, breathe, be. Be awareness sitting, breathing, being. Learn why in Zen the phrase “Just this” carries so much meaning. Infinite insights of “creative vitality” are available in this “absolute present.”