by Jack Kornfield: The present moment is the doorway to true calm…
It is the only place you can love or awaken—the eternal present. You cannot know the future. But here and now you can create a life of dignity and compassion, a day at a time. You can plant beautiful seeds and learn to tend them with love and courage amidst the unfolding mystery. Somerset Maugham once explained, “There are three rules for writing the great English novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” He wrote marvelous novels, the only way we can, a page at a time.
Being alive is finding ourselves in the midst of this great and mysterious paradox. There are ten thousand joys and sorrows in every life, and at one time or another we will be touched by all of them. We will all experience birth and death, success and loss, love and heartbreak, joy and despair. And in every moment of your life there are millions of humans just like you all over the world who are being confronted by situations just like yours, some that are joyful and some that are overwhelming where they are struggling to somehow learn how to survive them. What matters is the spirit you bring to each day. As George Washington Carver said, “How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the strong … because some day in life you will have been all of these.”
Becoming aware and mindful is not some magical tool where you will only experience pleasant moments. Instead, loving awareness will illuminate and hold everything—the success and delight and the pain and suffering. Even being overwhelmed by challenging emotions is a natural part of the journey. If you judge yourself against some impossible ideal of how you think you “should” be feeling and acting as you struggle, you’ll only add to your suffering.
Instead, listen to your thoughts with mindful awareness. You will see the evanescent nature of feelings and thoughts, that they are fleeting, all impermanent. And then you can begin to realize that just because you have a feeling or thought doesn’t mean you have to believe it—much less act on it—and certainly not get caught up in a whole stream of them. You can release the mind of some of its more dangerous patterns. Observing the mind with mindfulness brings liberation.
After you learn to see what’s in your mind and learn to release or disidentify with the unhealthy patterns, you will discover a deeper level of liberation. My teacher Sri Nisargadatta explained it like this: “The mind creates the abyss and the heart crosses it.” When you rest in the present moment with mindfulness, you open to a loving presence which is timeless and beyond the understanding of thought. It’s by returning to the awareness beyond thoughts that you experience true healing. When your mind and heart open, you realize who you are, the timeless, limitless awareness behind all thought.