Coming into the present moment
Most people who have heard of Eckhart Tolle will immediately relate any statement like ‘coming into the present moment’ with his acclaimed and significant book “The Power of Now”. What follows though is not a precis of his ideas, since the book was published long ago, around 2000, and whatever ideas landed then have long since been integrated in new ways. I believe however, that it would have been one of his intentions: to sow seeds for other’s consciousness to grow golden fields of realisation and, therefore it’s important to credit him with that before I continue…
Increasingly, in my REN XUE Heart cultivation practice (Tong Yuan), an extraordinarily simple and effective habit has been developing. Like all habits, the ones that immediately feel good are the ones that gain traction very quickly ~ and this one undoubtedly falls into that category. As described in both the Blog pieces ‘Exploring Unconditional Trust’ and ‘Love is my Practice’, the wrestling and wrangling of the mind to access both unconditional Love and unconditional Trust, as primordial, unchanging, eternal states of my Original Nature, or True Self, have sometimes felt futile and endless. And so, after all this time, this recent, elegant, realisation…
Backtracking a bit: sometimes I recall those visual puzzles (also called reversal images, optical illusions, perceptual rivalry) where one is asked to see the silhouetted old lady or the young girl, the vase or two faces in profile, etc. When first exposed to these illusions, it can be tough to see anything, let alone even one of the two options. Seeing both possibilities can feel completely impossible. However, if one relaxes and persists, there’s generally a spontaneous, Eureka moment of ‘seeing’ one. Relaxing again even deeper and allowing the eyes to soften, sometimes allows the other ‘rival’ image to pop into view, as spontaneously, out of the tangle of competing black and white.
Once one has been blessed enough to see BOTH, a new challenge arises: the pondering about how to flip-flop seamlessly from one to the other, after just a few seconds ago seeing them. Eventually, once this even greater challenge has been met, the fact emerges that somehow one’s mind latches onto one critical feature for each image, allowing the whole to instantaneously reveal itself. That one feature has unconsciously become a reference point for the construction of the whole image. Knowing what the anchoring reference point is, one will never be foxed again! You just look for the anchoring point and voila, you immediately see the whole image ~ and more astonishingly, you can change perspective quickly and smoothly between the two! It’s so simple in hindsight!
So, exploring this a little further. Can any of us deny that who we think we are, is at least vested in, rooted in, confirmed, and validated in, things that happened in the past? People and events over the broad span of time, sometimes easily recalled from memory, other times not, have profoundly imprinted our identity ~ who we think we are. What was said, not said, done, not done, by others and me, keeps the ‘character’ we know ourselves to be, and its story line, alive and well in this present moment. Our future projections can do the same.
And to point to something different: maybe you have had the experience of waking up in the morning after a long and particularly deep, undisturbed sleep and feeling completely still inside, peaceful even. There’s no thought, just a delicious feeling of being free and vibrantly alive. The breath is smooth and light, the body feels languorous and relaxed. Then, a memory of a conversation or event from last night or yesterday, last week or whenever, comes barrelling in. Immediately, we default to the mental activities of engaging. Planning, arguing, negotiating, defending, attacking, or any number of other responses ~ regarding another person or a situation. All these mental activities require a clear sense of ‘I’ as a personality, to have any kind of traction. All the thoughts, concepts, beliefs, and ideas about who ‘I’ am are highly activated to respond to those past events. And it was those past events that activated the ‘I’. A few seconds before, there was no ‘personality’. Yet, I was still clearly ‘here’, in my body, breathing, and feeling a soft and profound joy in the pure presence of ‘this moment’; the in-and-out-of-being-alive.
That activation of the ‘personality’ brought all the tension and urgency to do ‘something’, or flee from doing anything, the sense of dissatisfaction, frustration, sadness, grief, loneliness, apathy, desire to avoid life, or maybe to pursue, grasp, oversee, ‘create’. A far cry from that “soft animal of my body, doing what it loves” – the beautiful words from Wild Geese, the poem by the late Mary Oliver and which point to a state of natural being, closely akin to our True Self.
These two aspects of me, are as perceptually fickle as the silhouetted reversal images that taunt with their patterned attractors, those anchoring points that without any doubt will bring each aspect into clear view when we focus on them.
And so, rather accidentally, in Tong Yuan Heart practice meditations, I spontaneously fell into what has become one of the anchoring points for the True Self; a ‘point’ of attention which allows the whole internal experience of the True Self to effortlessly arise. No wrestling, jostling internal dialogue or complicated techniques. The simple portal of being right in this present moment. Bringing my full attention to the body, relaxing deeply into its pure, alive existence right now. Bringing all the awareness inside and fading out into ever further distance, any idea or thought about another time, past, or future. Just this full internal experience, now. What is so unexpected, is the extraordinary ability to connect directly with unconditional Love and Trust in my Heart. No trying. No effort. They are simply Here, Present, Now, as they have always been.