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Thread: Living in the Moment

  1. #1

    Living in the Moment

    Hi,

    The next time you hear that Zen is about "Living in the Moment", remember this incredible life story. The expression "Living in the Moment" is a kind of Zen cliche, too easily bandied about without folks really knowing what it means. If you truly lived only "in the moment" with no thought of past or future, you would be much like this poor man who was barely able to function in life. You would stumble into walls, forget where you were going.

    We can not only live in the present, but need to learn from the past and plan for the future ... otherwise we would just keep repeating the same mistakes again and again, would not remember where we parked the car, and could not even go shopping for tomorrow's supper or remember to get the baby out of the bath!

    Human beings need to learn from the past, plan for the future. So, when Zen folks talk about "being in the moment", a better meaning is that we learn to embrace this present moment, and our lives as they are now, without any thought that this moment should be some other way other than it is. We learn to drop excess thoughts and regrets about the past, and overly fixating on "what was" ... even as we learn from the past. We learn to let the future be and take care of itself, and to drop excess worry about the future ... even as we plan for a better future and take care of what needs taking care. We learn to "just be here" when we want to be ... playing with our children, appreciating a mountain scene, at home or work ... without always having our head lost somewhere else (though sometimes we must have our heads somewhere else and be occupied with thoughts of past and future).

    That is "being in the moment". This is what we learn from studying the great Zen and Buddhist teachers of the past, while living right this moment and preparing for tomorrow.

    Gassho, Jundo

    --
    H. M., an Unforgettable Amnesiac, Dies at 82
    By BENEDICT CAREY

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/05/us/05 ... nted=print

    He knew his name. That much he could remember.

    He knew that his father’s family came from Thibodaux, La., and his mother was from Ireland, and he knew about the 1929 stock market crash and World War II and life in the 1940s.

    But he could remember almost nothing after that.

    In 1953, he underwent an experimental brain operation in Hartford to correct a seizure disorder, only to emerge from it fundamentally and irreparably changed. He developed a syndrome neurologists call profound amnesia. He had lost the ability to form new memories.

    For the next 55 years, each time he met a friend, each time he ate a meal, each time he walked in the woods, it was as if for the first time.

    And for those five decades, he was recognized as the most important patient in the history of brain science. As a participant in hundreds of studies, he helped scientists understand the biology of learning, memory and physical dexterity, as well as the fragile nature of human identity.

    On Tuesday evening at 5:05, Henry Gustav Molaison — known worldwide only as H. M., to protect his privacy — died of respiratory failure at a nursing home in Windsor Locks, Conn. His death was confirmed by Suzanne Corkin, a neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who had worked closely with him for decades. Henry Molaison was 82.

    From the age of 27, when he embarked on a life as an object of intensive study, he lived with his parents, then with a relative and finally in an institution. His amnesia did not damage his intellect or radically change his personality. But he could not hold a job and lived, more so than any mystic, in the moment.

    ...

    Living at his parents’ house, and later with a relative through the 1970s, Mr. Molaison helped with the shopping, mowed the lawn, raked leaves and relaxed in front of the television. He could navigate through a day attending to mundane details — fixing a lunch, making his bed — only by drawing on what he could remember from his first 27 years.

  2. #2

    Re: Living in the Moment

    Gassho, Dirk

  3. #3

    Re: Living in the Moment

    Tom Seaver: Hey, Yogi, what time is it?
    Yogi Berra: You mean now?


    Human beings need to learn from the past, plan for the future. So, when Zen folks talk about "being in the moment", a better meaning is that we learn to embrace this present moment, and our lives as they are now, without any thought that this moment should be some other way other than it is. We learn to drop excess thoughts and regrets about the past, and overly fixating on "what was" ... even as we learn from the past. We learn to let the future be and take care of itself, and to drop excess worry about the future ... even as we plan for a better future and take care of what needs taking care. We learn to "just be here" when we want to be ... playing with our children, appreciating a mountain scene, at home or work ... without always having our head lost somewhere else (though sometimes we must have our heads somewhere else and be occupied with thoughts of past and future).
    Jundo, I've heard you explain this before, but this wording is especially clear to dunces like me. Put this one in the keeper file . . .

    Gassho,
    Bill

  4. #4

    Re: Living in the Moment

    I agree with Bill, this explanation of living in the moment was very clear and would have cleared up some major misconceptions on my part about a year ago.

    For those who are interested the latest edition of Psychology Today has a feature on mindfulness. It is a very good introduction from a non-sectarian standpoint.

    As for the article posted by Jundo about H.M., I can't imagine how it must be to start over each day practically w/o at least some knowledge of the past, friends, etc. It kind of reminds me of the move with Bill Murray, Ground Hog Day, where he was forced to live the same day over and over. A local Sangha used that movie for one of their 'Dharma Nights' where they watch movies that may have some important message. I didn't attend the session but would imagine that the key fact was that Murray's character learned to care more about the people as he had to return to the same day again and again.

    Sorry if this got us of track.

    Jeff

  5. #5

    Re: Living in the Moment

    Even beyond memory - we never truly lose the past, because we are MADE OF the past. Physically. A tree, for instance, gets its raw material from the air/water/sunlight that is long gone. When you look at it, you are sort of looking at "fossilized" past. Everything that is now, is here because of what was physically there before.

    When we form memories (if we are lucky enough to have that ability), those chemical and structural changes that burn themselves onto our brains are also part of that physical chain to which the past gave birth.

    To use the phrase - we aren't subject to cause and effect, we ARE cause and effect.

  6. #6

    Re: Living in the Moment

    Hi every one...

    I agree with Jundo.... I also make this misunderstanding a year ago, before joining the treeleaf.

    and now I think "this present moment" never can be caught by our mind. If we think about "the present moment", then it's just the thought of "the present moment". And it's not the real "present moment".
    On the other way, we always live at the present moment.

    Clinging to the past or future, it's not good. But Clinging to the "thinking of present moment" is not good also.

    I remember that Master Huineng has said "Let your mind abides no where"
    Not in the past or present (fake present) or future. Just see everything as it is. Then, everything in the past, in the future, and every thing in the (fake) present moment, will not disturb us. Then, our mind can be in peace anytime... this is the real "present moment".

    Then we can work, learn from the past, plan for tomorrow, without any thing can disturb our mind...

    Correct me if I'm wrong...

    Gassho, Shuidi

  7. #7

    Re: Living in the Moment

    Thank you Jundo for this wonderful explanation. I always seem to stumble on my words when trying to describe zen to people. The result usually ends up with them saying "well, whatever floats your boat, I've never been into that trendy new-age crap anyway".

    Gassho.

  8. #8

    Re: Living in the Moment

    Thanks for this thread.

  9. #9
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Living in the Moment

    Funny, when I read about H M a couple of weeks ago, I had the same thought. But who knows that he wasn't happier than us?

    (Not that such happiness would help the broader world, as you point out...)

    Kirk

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