It is Happening Now!

Geisel Library at University of California San Diego

I was walking up to the main library at the University of California in San Diego one night, which is a long walk even when you pay for parking, when I noticed my absent minded condition. I had been walking wrapped in thought, pondering. I had been oblivious to my surroundings. Does it happen to you? I am being facetious, of course, I know it does. We are all ponderers. We have so many projects, so many things pending and so many expectations! We believe that our efforts will eventually take us to a safe haven, don’t we?

And it is good that we have projects and goals, that is life! Without action nothing gets done. But there is a hidden challenge in taking action that we don’t see, for no matter how many goals we may have all we ever really have is this present moment. We do think that our goals will take us to a safe haven but there is no such a thing; there can’t be because this is a world of change. After we get to our “safe haven” sooner or later a new challenge will sprout. Besides, in a world where death is waiting at every turn, where can there be safety? Our challenge is to realize that we should act for the sake of the action itself because the challenge at hand is all we ever have. Reality is not what we think! Reality is what is here now. Everything is in this very moment.

Therefore, I decided to focus on the present moment, on what was actually taking place. I became aware then of the things that I was approaching (benches, cars, bus stops…), of the trees that I passed on the wooded trails. Soon I arrived at the last stretch of my walk, the wide walkway lined by tall Eucalyptus trees that takes you directly to the library, and I noticed other pedestrians immersed, as I had been, in self-reflection, oblivious to the world.

I noticed the library in the distance, a huge building that rose like a mushroom, like a giant bird spreading its wings obliterating the star-raddled sky. I wondered how that enormous building could remain aloft in such a narrow base, a feat of engineering. It reminded me briefly of the ship “Nostromo” in the movie “Alien” and for a moment my mind drifted in that direction. I brought it back. I walked on while aware of my surroundings, aware of the seemingly approaching building and the steps that brought it near. And then I was awaken from the slumber of self-reflection completely…I was fully aware of my surroundings.

When I arrived at the Geisel library I was present, and the feeling was such that I felt like prolonging my walk. A quote from The Christ interrupted my concentration once more, “Let thine eye be single and your whole body will be full of light”. And then I realized that prolonging my walk really didn’t matter because regardless of what we are doing presence of mind is always an option. Our attention can always be placed on the action at hand.

It does not matter either how well we do it (to berate ourselves for not being present is also a lack of discipline, an ego problem) our best is enough. To be aware of what the mind does is the key. To see how it worries about past events that can’t be changed or future events that will never happen is the first step. But we shouldn’t force the issue, for the mind’s very nature is to think. Make it play! Watch the mind’s moves!

Nevertheless, we should do our best, for an undisciplined mind can’t avoid misleading us. And having a disciplined mind is the only way to vanquish the darkness of self-centeredness, that ego-induced self-reflection that is usually empty blabber, a blind alley. A disciplined mind is the key to happiness…”Let thine eye be single…”

Digression | Presence

I was caught by the flu last weekend. It came out of the blue; I had been feeling great and the weather couldn’t have been better. San Diego, CA almost always has a summer breeze.

Isn’t it amazing how a simple virus can reduce a human being to a sniveling, panting heap of pain and discomfort? You can feel miserable enough to see your death staring at you; some viruses do kill. One positive thing about getting sick is that it can give you some perspective; it points out to us the impermanence of all life. All we have is the moment we live.

The flu made me think about the most important thing we can have…

Our actions are frequently affected by worries and influenced by misleading assumptions that stem from our aimless self-reflection. It is our undisciplined and relentless mind that produces irresponsible or base behavior induced by irrational fears, which originate in non-existent sources or situations. Reality is warped by the wandering mind; reality is not what we think (our concepts and ideas). Thus, the most important thing we do is to discipline our minds to focus on reality as it is now. It is interesting to note that human beings have the uncanny ability to ignore the obvious.

Although all sages from the beginning of time have stressed the importance of having presence of mind, we refuse to see the necessity of it. We refuse to see what it can do for us. To try to simplify something rather complex I would say that it does three things for us: Physically speaking, presence can even save our lives by helping us be aware of what is coming at us; mentally, it will eliminate stress because stress dwells either in a non-existent future or a past that we refuse to let go; and spiritually, it will help us to see that we are never separate from the Source–“be still and know that I am God”–psalms 46:10.

Now, it is true that I don’t know anybody that can be mindful at all times, but just trying our best (just our best) makes a big difference. And with a disciplined mind comes equanimity and inner balance whether we have or have not. And bear in mind that “having” and “having not” are always subject to change, so the most important thing we have is our presence of mind.

I know I am digressing in this post, but isn’t everything interconnected? What do you think?

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