Recently I was thinking about my presence in the moment: a description of the Zen way of experiencing what is happening while it is happening, in all of its simplicity. It occurred to me that it is almost impossible to bring an empty mind and heart to any given moment because whatever I see, hear or experience is attended by what has gone before as well as sometimes in my mind, what is or might be to come.
Much as I want to experience reality from a place of “beginner’s mind” which is one way of describing a fresh, unprejudiced point of view, the best I can do is be aware of whatever judgments or previous perceptions I might have that can influence my observations. I first learned about the beginner’s mind approach many years ago when I went to a very special learning center and heard monthly speakers discussing Yoga, Zen, and other spiritual paths. Because it struck me as useful, I began to work on this.
Over the years I have learned to be more observant not only of what goes on around me but also of my own thoughts and responses. Usually it takes a while for me to see myself in action. Often it is only after tripping over my words or actions that I learn to notice my feelings and thoughts at any given time. Eventually I always hope to get to the point where I only think a judgment driven response rather than express it and then be sorry afterward for having said something I wish I hadn’t.
I recognize that I can only be aware of what I bring to any given moment. I cannot be present in any moment without bringing to it all the other moments it is attached to. My life is made up of all of its moments, and there is no escaping my recall that hauls up any related experience or judgment as soon as I observe what is in front of me. Perhaps one day I will be able to have a mind that is truly empty as I bring it to bear upon the moment. For now, the simple awareness that I do not must be enough.