For much of my adult life so far, I realise, I have not been present in it. Now that I have had my ‘sudden awakening’, my moment of zen, I can see this.
It’s like I was always caught up in a mental story. Most of it was about worrying about the future; so much so that I would often miss out on experiencing what was going on around me. Even miss out on conversations. Present in the room, but not present mentally within myself or with others.
I have read enough to understand that this behaviour is extremely common, and would suggest that it can be more common in those who have experienced a lot of stress or hardship in life.
It would be easy to feel pain about this; as though I have been deprived of experiencing life. Cheated. But feeling pain about it is exactly the sort of absent-minded activity that caused the absence in the first place; it does not help me to stay present today, in the moment. Therefore, I choose not to feel pain about it.
Today I have learned that what Buddhists call ‘dependent arising’, or ‘attachment to the samsaric world’ of things, possessions, relationships, is a liberating thing to be free from.
For a while I have been scared that to remove myself from any attachment to experience in the samsaric world is a cloaked form of the same old absence from experiencing life. I have been afraid of non-attachment, feeling as though it is some kind of religious instruction denying me yet again from living my life. It seemed to threaten me with another form of experiential denial, just like my mental stories did before.
But I have learned that it is not a negative thing at all. Not a religious instruction, but a suggestion of something that might help tremendously and wonderfully. It is a beautiful thing. It is the perfect way to be. It harnesses the potential for, ultimately, an egoless sense of immortality. And… it requires presence.
Experiencing what is happening right now, and responding skillfully to that, is non-attachment. Being properly and fully present – genuinely here fully in the moment – it is not possible to attach to things. Dependent arising becomes impossible. Attachment or dependent arising require a mental story. They require time – a past and a future. A mental sense of time does not exist when you are present in now.
Non-attachment is not another form of mental absence, or denying myself to really feel experiences and enjoy myself. (Permission to enjoy myself please…) It is the very way to go deeper into life, and into now.
Or putting it back the other way; presence in the now results in non-attachment at the same time as liberating me to experience what is going on right now in life.
This is hard, and also very easy at the same time. It is hard to stay present. It takes practice and a lifetime. But it is also a lot simpler and easier than ‘trying’ to detach myself religiously from everything. ‘Trying’ is another mental game. Another version of mental absence. Trying so hard to be enlightened that I am missing enlightenment.
And so another block on the path has been removed.