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Our experience of this moment Barry Magid September 13th 2008

We often talk about being just this moment, but how do you actually go about doing it? In one sense of course, you can't do anything else. Whether you try or not, concentrate or not, are aware or not, you are continuously being this moment. What else could you be?

But our subjective experience is usually quite different. We often feel as if we're anything but this moment. Our thoughts rush backward and forward in time and who we are seems dependent on a thousand things that have gone before and or will come later. One important aspect of labeling our thoughts as thoughts is to restore our awareness of the fact that regardless of the content of our thoughts, whether we are pre-occupied with the past, present or future, all our thoughts are happening now.

At the beginning of work practice during our last sesshin, I asked you to focus on your work assignment as if it were going to last forever. Ordinarily, we think of work as having a beginning and an end, and we work with some goal or end in sight. But during sesshin, our work becomes timeless. Who we are, and all we've learned through our practice, has nowhere to express itself but in how we are working. The universe contracts to a moment of scrubbing the floor. And when we work as if that is all there is, not as if our task is something to finish up as quickly as possible, or is just one interlude in a long day of sitting, we work differently. It's almost as if we need to play a trick on our mind to get it to stay in the present. If so, it's a trick we can take out of sesshin and into our everyday lives.

As New Yorkers, we seem especially prone always to be rushing from one thing to the next. Take a moment to make an inventory of the events of the last 24 hours. Which ones did you want to hold onto and which did you try to rush through as quickly as possible? As Buddhists, we are said to believe that each moment is an impermanent flash of transitory existence, but when we're waiting for the subway, or stuck in traffic, we act as if each moment was going to last forever. And that's where I suggest you apply our lesson from work practice. Wait for the subway as if waiting were the whole of your life and practice. Wait as if how you behaved to others waiting on the platform was the sole expression of your character.

At first, when we play this little trick on ourselves, we may think that that is all it is, a gimmick to help us stay in the moment by pretending to ourselves that the moment will last forever, that this moment is all there is. But which is the greater pretense, pretending that this moment is all there is, or pretending that this moment doesn't really matter and that our real life will happen somewhere else?

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