Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Present Moment

“Throw caution to the wind.” Is that what we are hearing when the Zen warrior remembers what his teacher told him: that his fears will go away when he just attends to the present moment?

Would you drive 100 miles an hour when you just attend to the present moment?

I think being in the present moment is the opposite of “throwing caution to the wind.” We’d be acutely aware of inherent dangers if we were awake. We’d see that driving so fast might endanger others. We’d hear the vibrations of our car and know that, in this moment, we were driving too fast.

Supposedly the frontal part of the brain that tells us about consequences doesn’t get developed until our late 20s. Does that mean that we are living in the moment until then, and as we get to be old fogies, we start looking at the future and past?

No. I think that might be a misinterpretation of “living in the moment.” It is not the reckless abandon of the “happy go lucky” teenager. We’d see the consequences of our actions. We’d do the right thing. We’d make good judgments.

We’d notice that the horse we were riding was ready to collapse. We see that the person with which we were interacting was bored stiff. We’d see it all. There would be enough caution implicit in our moment to moment observations that we wouldn’t kill the horse nor would we bore our friend to sleep.

But, you might say, the warrior who faces a dreadful tomorrow might have been ill-advised from his Zen master to be in the moment. Perhaps he could prepare to avoid his possible execution tomorrow. I think the answer is that fear is about the future. If there is a problem in the present, then that is what should be addressed. This moment is not always about fulfilling sensual needs. It is about appropriately responding to the needs of an infant, or oneself, or the field we are tilling or the plant we are watering.

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