The present is truly the only place we exist. What we call the past is a construct of memory, the recollection of which constitutes a present experience. According to author Alan Watts, the future is likewise a construct, “and cannot become a part of experienced reality until it is present.” So, to know happiness in the future, we must be happy now. Delaying enjoyment of your life is to always live in Christmas Eve, with the many gifts around you staying securely wrapped. Moreover, to participate in the moment — to be fully aware, is to be unified with the experience, and free from the separating identity of being the experiencer.
[Watts:] “To understand music, you must listen to it. But so long as you are thinking, ‘I am listening to this music,’ you are not listening. To understand joy or fear, you must be wholly and undividedly aware of it. So long as you are calling it names and saying, ‘I am happy,’ or ‘I am afraid’, you are not being aware of it. This is not a psychological or spiritual discipline for self-improvement, It is simply being aware of this present experience, and realizing that you can neither define it nor divide yourself from it. There is no rule but ‘Look!’
Tom Maxwell, No Rush, No Dawdle: The Secret Of Proper Timing
Normally when we are taken by surprise, there is a sudden narrowing of our visual periphery that exacerbates the fight or flight response… But in the Japanese self-defense art of aikido, this visual narrowing is countered by a practice called “soft eyes”, in which one learns to widen one’s periphery, to take in more of the world. If you train a person to practice soft eyes, then introduce that same sudden stimulus, the reflex is often transcended. This person will turn toward the stimulus, take it in, and then make a more authentic response — such as thinking a new thought.
Soft eyes, it seems to me, is an evocative image for what happens when we gaze on sacred reality. Now our eyes are open and receptive, able to take in the greatness of the world and the grace of great things. Eyes wide with wonder, we no longer need to resist or run when taken by surprise. Now we can open ourselves to the great mystery.
Those who gathered yesterday to see the sun rise at the burial tomb in Newgrange were disappointed, as the morning was cloudy, overcast and rainy. No sign of the sun, which in ancient times may have been quite frightening. A good lesson for us on the confidence we keep inside despite our changing moods.
The sun doesn’t stop shining because some of us are blind.
The birds don’t stop singing because some of us are deaf.
The heart doesn’t stop loving because some of us are afraid.
What lets the flower in the forest bloom though no one is watching?