The gift of the present

1780993900Going through my old gwers (small course books) from the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids’ online correspondence course that I did many years ago, I found a section of a few gwers that made me smile, as it resonated with me then and still does, on so many levels and is also a major part of the way that I live my life. It focuses on the here and now, on the beauty and wonder of the present moment, and how important the present moment is. Leaving the past to the past, and the future to the future, these gwers really highlighted the importance of focus on the here and now. I did this through incorporating elements of Zen Buddhism into my life (see my first book, Zen Druidry) which has helped me to fully actualise the present moment, to not take it for granted and to learn to simply be, wherever I am and whatever I am doing.

Being comfortable in the present is key to finding lasting happiness. Knowing that the past exists, but that it serves only as a guide to the present moment helps us to release many things that can have a negative effect on the present moment, such as anger, grief, fear or hate. Knowing that the future exists only as a flexible plan helps us to not get too stuck in our ways and habits, and can also alleviate feelings such as fear. Our focus should always been on the now, to live life fully.

But what if the “now” isn’t all that great? What if in the “now” we are stuck outside in the pouring rain without an umbrella or coat, waiting for a bus that never turns up? Yep – that’s all part of it. Buddhism teaches in the first noble truth that all beings suffer. You can’t escape it. That might sound like one helluva downer, but the upside is that the other noble truths help us to alleviate that suffering. One of the ways to do so is the fully be in your self, in your body and mind (there is no separation) and in doing so, the suffering eases. That doesn’t mean you won’t get soaked to your knickers, but at least you spent the time feeling the rain upon your body, smelled the earth responding to the rain and smiled to your own heart rather than get angry at the bus driver, or grumpy about the wetness, wondering why this sort of thing always happens to you.

For some people who are living in extreme conditions, say in the middle of a war zone for instance, the above may sound trite. However, Vietnemese monk Thich Nhat Hanh experienced the horrors of war first hand and learned how to be in the present moment, to help alleviate the suffering. (See the Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh .) When we are in the present moment we will know how to respond to any situation better than if we were responding from the past or future. Our clarity sharpens and we respond in a manner that is wholly and utterly relevant to the situation at hand rather than drudging up issues from the past or worries about the future.

I have had to deal with uncomfortable situations and difficult people. Being in the present helped me to not drudge up the past to project it onto a particular situation in negative ways, but to enable me to deal with the issues as they are, up front without any extra baggage. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we enjoy dealing with this sort of stuff, but we can get through it with a lighter heart, finding our peace more quickly and able to spread that out to the world. It helps you see reality, as it really is. Eventually you may find that your inner peace becomes less and less disturbed, no matter what life throws at you, and that peace and calm will radiate out into the world in beautiful and positive ways.

May you enjoy the present moment for all that it is. Remember the old saying, “Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present”.

 

 

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8 thoughts on “The gift of the present

  1. Lovely! Haven’t heard this before so will share it with my Year 3 and Year 5 classes tomorrow, they’ll appreciate it!

  2. Your “waiting in the rain” example reminds me of my hitch-hiking days. No matter how frustrated you got with the cars which passed by trying to splash you, the rude gestures etc, you had to remember that the one who finally stopped (sometimes after hours of your waiting) was the kindest person around at that one moment. No point in taking your frustrations out on the one person who deserved only thanks – you had to live in the moment and forget the hours of waiting.

    I still occasionally get reminded of something similar if I’ve been waiting in a queue for ages. The wait is usually the fault of all the people in the queue (including oneself) not the poor, overworked person behind the counter trying to deal with a stream of irritated people. It’s amazing what replying to their apologies for the wait with a simple “It’s O.K. I know it isn’t your fault; thanks for being here to serve me.” can do to the expression on their face (and often the quality of the service you then receive)! There’s no point in carrying the problems of the past into the future, only the lesson’s you’ve learned from dealing with those problems.

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