[Excerpts from an article by Loch Kelly in “When am I?” : Tricycle : September 08, 2015. The writer explains something about the present moment that’s held my attention for a long time, vis-à-vis the concept of present moment awareness as in “Postcards from the Present Moment” : dhammafootsteps.com]
In Tibetan Buddhism, the Now is considered the “timeless time” that includes the three relative times of past, present, and future. We know not to get caught in the past or the future, but in order to be in the Now, we also have to let go of the present. The Now is not confined by relative clock time, yet it is also not pure timelessness. The Now is the meeting place of timeless spacious awareness with the relative world and its conventional time. The Now does not come and go, but includes everything all at once. When we’re aware of being in the Now, present moments come and go, like ripples and waves in the ocean of awake awareness.
We cannot enter present moments because they move too fast and change continuously. Contemporary Tibetan Buddhist teacher Mingyur Rinpoche says, “If you examine even the present moment carefully, you find that it also is made up of earlier and later moments. In the end, if you keep examining the present moment, you find that there is no present moment that exists either.”
One of the great insights we can get from mindfulness meditation practice is that each moment of experience arises and passes. Having a direct experience of this impermanence, from observing awareness, helps us let go of the attempt to calcify any single moment of time, to try to make something stable that is not. When we really get a feeling for the coming and going of moments, it helps us break the illusion of a solid, separate self, which gives us relief from suffering.
The present time is not the Now. When Gampopa, an 11th-century Buddhist teacher, said, “Don’t invite the future. Don’t pursue the past. Let go of the present. Relax right now,” he was pointing to the fact that trying to locate yourself in any of the three relative times, including the present, can cause suffering – it’s not always a benefit to strive to be in the present. While working as a psychotherapist, I saw that the distinguishing feature of clinical depression is feeling stuck in the present. As one client said, “It feels like there is only this present, unbearable pain and no hope of it changing.”
The most important thing to know is that we are always already in the Now—however, we are not always aware of being in the Now. You can only know the Now from awake awareness. Many of us have experienced being in the Now when we were “in the zone” or in a panoramic flow state, but we can’t be aware of being in the Now from our everyday, ego-identified state of mind. We can shift through the door of the Now into awake awareness, or when abiding in awake awareness, we can begin to notice the feeling of being in the Now. The purpose of clarifying and distinguishing the Now from the present and present moment is for us to be able to shift into being in the Now and know we are here.
From Shift Into Freedom: The Science and Practice of Open-hearted Awareness, by Loch Kelly.
(Photo: Phuket coastal palms by Penn B.)
Loch Kelly brings much wisdom into our modern time. So much of what we learn is from the past … yet what we can bring into now is so refreshing and illuminating. Maybe it is all about the now … knowing and embracing Presence here beyond the battery of the body. The when is immaterial.
Thanks Val, good to know you’ve looked into Loch Kelly’s teaching. It happens to me in a spontaneous leap of unprepared language that turns out allright of its own accord. ‘The when is immaterial,’ opens a door to something I’m only partly aware of.
A beautiful post tiramit, I resonate with being in the now flowing moment by moment, no struggle, just allowing, observing everything passing and changing when we cease to fight… just accept what is now. Hope you’re well tiramit, sending love x
Thanks B, I resonate too with being in the flow of moment by moment these days. Remembering how I used to be, not so long ago, struggling with thought and proliferation of ideas without recourse to being in the here-and- now, trapped in the belief in ‘self.’ So glad to have managed to shake off that dependency.