In our more lucid moments…we are capable of sensing the power and intelligence that sustains us and everything else. In such moments, it is hard not to feel touched by the sublime, by that which links all the things in the world together, by the eternal essence that is at the heart of our existence.“ Rod Stryker
With a knot in my throat and hollowness in the pit of my belly, I painfully watched the miniature airplane dot its way across the digital display screen toward the European continent. In the lower right hand corner of the screen, was where I had been, a sacred place that touched my soul. Tears pooled my eyes and spilt abundantly onto page 49 blurring the sentences as the letters bled together into abstract Rorschach-like inkblots. A week is short but then again, so is a lifetime. Time is constantly fleeting, slipping through our fingers like tiny grains of sand. Any attempt to manipulate the idea of fleetingness or grasping onto time will indefinitely end in great suffering and pain.
By experience we know this, and yet we still consciously or unconsciously dip in, and mostly out, of the present moment, clutching onto precious seconds of the past by clinging to tattered photos, dusty vases and distorted memories in desperation that we will be robbed of this moment. It is understandable why we exit the present moment when we are overwhelmed by emotional, physical or mental challenges but why do we exit when we are in the midst of joy, pleasure and even wholeness? Maybe we are more attracted to the illusion of continuity that remains etched in our minds in the form of memory and that feeds the seed of wanting than the real deal?
According to the Buddhist tradition, anicca or impermanence is one of the 3 basic intrinsic truths or marks of our existence. Life itself is in a constant state of perpetual flux. This movement is the spontaneous flow of life and if we consciously choice to dance in its cadence, we dance in harmony with reality as it unfolds naturally. Things change, we change and life itself comes and goes. This is inevitable and erroneously mistaking the impermanent for permanent drives us directly to dukkha, or suffering. According to the teachings, in life, nothing is permanent except for impermanence itself. This we can count on.
Kneeling on the emerald green felt carpet with my toes curled under in dwi pada angusthasana, I bowed three times in respect for Buddha, the Dharma (his teachings) and the Sanga (the community). Before me, a cloud of saffron robed monks with freshly shaven heads and pressed palms at the heart center prostrated in synchronicity before a larger than life statue. Deep burgundy in color, the front wall was speckled with hundreds of gold leafed statues similar in size and form. An ornate alter was pressed up against the wall and adorned with golden Buddhas of various heights demonstrating hand mudras of peace and wisdom while the ensemble was illuminated by an uncountable number of flickering flames. Six interspaced and well-worn cushions were placed at the base of the alter and reserved for the Sathu (the abbot) and the six Cho mom (the monks). The remainder of the emerald carpet was spotted with four perfectly aligned rows of five Aichua (novices) each kneeling comfortably, thus totally 27 saffron beings.
The air was dense with the heat of the passing day yet the sweet smell of incense permeated its density. A colony of tiny orange robed ants made their way across the green felt carpet stopping midway before the Buddha. The room had gone silent. Even the beat of my heart became still. Within the perfect stillness of that particular moment, a sound was born. A vibrational symphonic stream of chanting in ancient Pali pierced my heart and soul. Indescribable yet so real, I felt transported into the perfect moment, one of utmost joy, with a deep sense of being, being connected to something magnificent, something immeasurable. Time as I knew it stood still. It became infinitely full, infinitely peaceful, infinitely liberating and void of worry and thought. Eckhart Tolle wrote “as soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out the present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care, and love – even the most simple action.” So the simple act of sitting and receiving became one of the most transcending moments of my existence where every cell of my being embodied this moment.
And then, it was gone…all of it, within a matter of seconds. Uninvited thoughts of thirst and wanting this moment to last forever filled my mind and deafened the vibrational stillness that surrounded me. In panic, I opened my eyes in hopes of latching onto a visual that would transport me back to that moment but it was gone. I searched for some loophole that would allow me to return. The more I clung to the experience the more my ears shut down and the more my mind went wild. ”How many more suat mon (chanting and meditation) do I have? Could I learn all these chants before my departure? How could I capture them, maybe on video or maybe with my IPhone? Maybe I should change my departure date and stay longer? If only my family and friends could be here to witness this beauty.” And so on and so on. Five minutes of this internal mental chatter of worry and thought and inevitably, time had passed. I once heard that life is what happens to you when you are not paying attention. I wasn’t paying attention at all. I was everywhere but here.
Then, an epiphany hit me like a rod of lightening. Suddenly, I felt overwhelmed by utter sadness and a sense of deep loss. To my surprise, my sadness wasn’t rooted in what appeared ‘’obvious’’ to me but sparked by something so divinely sublime. It wasn’t the chants or the monks that I feared loosing but that rare feeling of being whole. Through blurred vision I looked around the room and wondered how many of these monks had actually exited from the NOW and felt disconnected from their fullness? With compassion, I extended my heart out to those that too, have felt deep sadness of separation from their core and drew it back into my heart with the rhythm of my breath. The awakening of this universal sadness touched my soul and allowed me to once again receive this moment. The surface of my skin began to tingle and my senses progressively became alive, captivating the vibrational sound of stillness until it became indescribable. Then once again I experienced that feeling of wholeness, of merging with the present moment, of merging with all.
Heraclitus once said, ‘’no man steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man.’’ When we consciously step into the current of NOW the highest expression of who we are unfolds into this vast space of fullness. This feeling of fullness is always accessible to each and every one of us if we choose NOW. NOW is who we are at our deepest core, boundlessly connected to the preciousness of life. It might be cliché to say that the present moment is all we really have, as the past is no longer and the future still remains an enigma. But on a deep cellular level the present moment holds the answer to our every question, the inherent tools needed to deal with each second of our existence and the only space in which peace prevails. When we are deeply steeped in the NOW we are instantaneously gifted with our greatest inherent potential and aligned with the sacred wisdom of the universe, not as a separate being but as a whole. Tolle reminds us not to grasp onto the notion of ‘’being’’ with our minds, not even try to understand it. We can only know being in the NOW when the mind is perfectly still. He continues with this, and with this, I will leave you. “Always say “yes” to the present moment. What could be more futile, more insane, than to create inner resistance to what already is? What could be more insane than to oppose life itself, which is now and always now? Surrender to what is. Say “yes” to life — and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.”