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present moment

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molassesYesterday I wrote about a way out of fear by bringing attention to the body, particularly the breath. And to do this again and again, however strong the pull to re-enter the misery may be. I remember a particular heart pain a while back as having the quality of molasses on a winter’s morning: shiny and strangely attractive, almost solid yet slow-moving, utterly sticky, and anything but sweet. It took tremendous effort at a time when my body-mind would have preferred to be left to its misery and allowed to disappear into a black hole.

From time to time, especially when I catch myself in ‘teaching mode,’ I know to check in with someone more seasoned. There’s always a fresh way of saying that which has been handed down from teacher to student for 2500+ years. Norman Fischer, former abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center, writes as follows:

In Zen we always emphasize the “present moment.” The “present moment” is this moment, the only moment we ever live, whose depths include past and future as dynamic forces, without fear or nostalgia. It is not a hedonistic present that denies the past or ignores the future. When we truly enter this moment we feel satisfied; there’s no holding on, no thirsting or longing. We accept with appreciation whatever appears, letting go of desire for something else … and of desire to hold on to this moment.

source: Fischer, N. (2008). Sailing home: using the wisdom of Homer’s Odyssey to navigate life’s perils and pitfalls. New York: Free Press, p. 141.

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