No Way Now / M. Zohar
(a talk from August 8th 2015 at Rose Apple)
The Challenge of Simply Being Now
The heart of this retreat, what we are offering today, is present-moment meditation, which is very simple – simply being present in open awareness, as we are; simply being with what-is, whatever it is – this is what-is meditation. It is truly simple, it is a very natural inherent human capacity, and yet, very often it is not easy for us to simply be; simply being present – it is simple, and yet, sometime it's not easy.
One reason for this is that we are caught in waves of emotions, storms of feelings, strong currents of driving impulses which take us away from what is happening here and now; we are drowning in reactivity, lost in negativity, unable to be present in the present moment. Another reason for this difficulty, the challenge of simply being now, is more subtle, less obvious, and it is also more fundamental and therefore more powerful; and this is our ideas, our thoughts, our notions of who we are and what we are, and what is this world and this life we are living.
But first of all, as today we are learning meditation – it's not easy being now because of our ideas of what is meditation; and therefore this morning, in this talk, I would like to clarify what is present-moment meditation and what may be our ideas of meditation, which are the main obstacle that prevents us from simply being now as we are. We have ideas about "the present moment", notions of "now", and these mislead us to think and believe that being now somehow requires us to do something or to become someone, to attain some extra-ordinary "meditative state"; while, in truth, there are no prerequisites for present-moment meditation, there are no prerequisites for now – there are no special conditions, nothing we need to cultivate, there is no way we need to follow to simply be present, attentive to life as it is in the now.
The Question of Now, Time and Meditation /
Discovering Now Beyond Time /
Now is Love: on Death, Fear and Time
(Now is a Fact: No Problem Now) /
No Way Now: Now is Nowhere; on Now Beyond Signs
the full text of this talk is available in The Rose Apple Experience: Talks from a Meditation Retreat
Being Now, Doing Time: a Non-Dual Approach to Life and Meditation
We have said that now is the way – now is the heart of meditation, only now there is life; and yet, there is no way to now. We have learned that present-moment meditation is not an accumulation, it is not a "way" in the ordinary sense of the word – it is not a movement in time, it is not a process of Self, a way of becoming … and this is the good news because it means there is nothing to do, there is nowhere to go, there is no-one to be – there's no need to become better or other than who we are. But here's the thing: there's nothing to do, and yet – we do; there is nowhere to go, and yet – we go and we go; there is no-one to become, and yet – we are constantly becoming and becoming all the time … this is the reality of our life. And so, to end this talk, let us challenge what has been said so far, and then let us clarify and resolve this challenge, and thus deepen our understanding.
We have said that now is not of time – present-moment meditation is not a movement in time, it is not an accumulated process; and yet, whenever we look at ourselves and our life, we clearly see that now we are different than the way we were last year, the way we were five years ago or twenty years ago – there is an accumulated progress over time in our life of meditation. We have all experienced this fact: over twenty years or over two years or over whatever period of time – we sit for twenty minutes and there is already an accumulated progress in meditation, in our life-situation – skillfulness in meditation improves the conditions and brings about a better state of body and mind; and how does this corresponds, how does this relates to everything that has been said so far? – this is the question we'd like to clarify in order to bring this morning's talk to a close.
Let us admit: this claim is true, it is clear that there is progress in meditation over time – there are aspects of meditation that are gradually acquired; as we sit silently or walk slowly in meditation, as we live mindfully, body and mind are gradually getting better, as well as our relationships – breath by breath, day by day, it is an acquired progress. Some are acquired by the hour – each hour we practice meditation we accumulate skillfulness, we accumulate concentration, accumulate energy; that is why after we have meditated for two hours or twenty-four hours or a twenty-one day retreat we come out differently, we are changed; there is an accumulated progress – we have advanced according to the amount of time we've put in. Thus, even people who are relatively new to a life of meditation, if they are diligent in their practice, if they dedicate time each day to their meditation, they will advance rapidly and experience the fruits of applying themselves this way.
Another type of accumulation in meditation is acquired by the year, because even if we don't practice so intensively and don't sit in formal meditation so many hours, if we are studying meditation for an extended period of time, if we are on a spiritual path, if we are engaged in inner work over several years, there is a certain kind of maturity that grows in us, a "spiritual sensibility"; and it is different from the energy and skillfulness just mentioned – it is a more stable and knowing way of being, and it grows as a result of our immersion in this way of meditation. This way, as we grow in emotional and mental stability, we acquire knowledge of the path, and eventually we are also able to share that knowledge with others – we become teachers, as we know what to do, when to do and how to do.
These are aspects of growth in meditation, progress in meditation over time – these are the effects of meditation on body and mind and our relationships, the effects of meditation on life over time. These changes are gradually acquired by the hour or by the year, and they occur whether we are being meditation, simply being present in open awareness, or doing meditation, which means we are practicing a method of meditation, using skillful means to approach an end-result, trying to cultivate "spiritual qualities" – living intentionally to realize our aspiration. Doing meditation is not a way to now, as we've said, but still it has its rewards – living this way, in the realm of this meditation, there's progress over time; and that's why we can say we are "doing time" – there are consequences to anything we are doing, and time is the distance traveled from cause to effect, time is the evolution and the summation of our deeds – doing time, we are accumulating time's changes.
These changes happen, they are a fact with which many of us are familiar, but the essential question of meditation is how we relate to this fact – what is our attitude to life's changes, for better or worse, how do we approach time and its manifestations? Even though we may live many years in meditation or devote many hours each day to meditation, and even though we may accumulate wholesome growth in meditation, still – the quality of our life is the quality of our presence in this present moment, each moment anew; and that's why our question today is this: we are doing time, this is true, but together with that – are we open to the possibility of being now? Being now is the heart of our life in meditation, and it includes the realm of doing time – this is the non-dual approach to life and meditation.
The way of time is life in the realm of Samsara, Self and suffering, where we are caught and lost in a world of thought, with no way out. In Samsara we are driven by reactivity and negativity, and resistance to life – resistance to the fact of what-is; which means living in fear and frustration, discontent and self-contradiction, wanting and trying to not-be here and now as we are. This way we are striving and fighting, from within and without, or slipping into not-caring, boredom and neglect; and all this time never daring to face, never able to openly meet the challenge of simply being now.
This way also includes our progress in time, our meditative advancements and spiritual and material acquisitions, our accomplishments and success – Samsara is not only thorns, Samsara does have flowers as well! – if we are skillful we may prosper and grow, over time we are changing and accumulating these changes, the consequences of our actions; but no matter how far we've gone and how much we've grown in meditation, these are just superficial adjustments of our life-situation, ripples on still water, and they change nothing essential in our life, in the way we act and react – in the realm of time we are forever limited by our Self-view, and all our self-improvements do not fundamentally change the quality of our life in the present moment – they cannot effect a radical change of heart. And so, certainly there is progress in meditation over time, but this progress does not liberate us from fear and suffering, it has nothing to do with awakening and love; for whatever we do and however we try, regardless of how "advanced" we've become, there is no escape from time and becoming – time and time again, this is our life on the wheel of becoming as it rises and falls.
This is the realm of Samsara, where we are doing time – this is our life as we are drowning in story-time, living in shadows and dreams, bound by opinions, prejudices and conclusions, chained by beliefs and ideas to a center of Self-importance; living within a web of conditioning, we are going around in circles, eternally repeating ourselves, repeating the same life-situations – time after time we are repeating our patterns of thinking and feeling, saying and doing – we are doing time's story-lines, we are realizing our Self's story on life's stage, in our relationships, in body and mind, as our drama oscillates between peaks of excitement and glory to an abyss of loneliness and despair; and the only constant is this: the show must go on … – this is the routine of Samsara, the way of time, with no escape and no way out.
And yet, there is a way – the Way In, the way of now, which is a way of being – being now beyond time; and as this way is the response to the challenge of Samsara, we may be tempted to call it "Nirvana" ... but it's better to be careful with this notion, as it's still within the realm of doing time. The idea of "Nirvana" as an ultimate attainment is nothing but a projection and a reflection, an extension of Samsara; it's an idealized state out-of-this-world, "life" according to our liking, with no disturbance or challenge – it's an imagined and wished-for place where there is no Self, no anger and craving, no thought and no feeling … where there is no place for us, ordinary human beings, where there is no place for simply being as we are in the heart of our actual human condition.
Therefore, there is a way, but it's way beyond our ideas, beyond any known path and aim – right now, right at the heart of Samsara, there is a way of discovering what-is and awakening from the dream of time. The attentive response to the challenge of time is being now – only it is not an idea, but a simple presence beyond time; presence that also includes awareness with the story of time. Being now is life in the realm of presence: being now as we are is being present with our doings in time, doing whatever we do as we are attentive to life within us and around us, attentive to life in ourselves and in others as well – being now is reverence for life; life that includes doing time. Being now is doing time in an embrace of love, doing time in the light of living joy, doing time in peace and with gratitude – being now is living in beauty, being free to love what-is, as it is; being now as we are doing time, this is acknowledging our human nature, and thus, when we're neither resisting nor reacting, we are free to be here and now, fully present and truly alive – wholeheartedly doing time and being now – doing time while being now, this is the non-dual approach to life and meditation.
Now is the essence, the heart of life and meditation – and yet, we live in time with its Self-centered stories; and although there's no causal relation between now and time, there's no way to now through time, still, there's no contradiction: now and time are two aspects of our life in the human condition. And so, present-moment meditation, which is a way of being now beyond time, beyond our doings and their consequences, does not contradict these aspects of meditation that progress and grow in time – it doesn't contradict the meditation that is a movement in time, the acquired accumulated aspects of meditation; it is, however, a whole different dimension or realm, a whole different approach.
In meditation as accumulation we develop knowledge of the path, but present-moment meditation is the attentive approach in the now, and it can offer us the gift of being at ease with what-is, being at ease with not knowing – being now offers us the freedom of not knowing, the freedom to be with what-is beyond knowing, beyond any mental conceptualization. It is a way of being beyond our ideas, beyond our notions – our ideas and notions, as our stories, always come after the fact; as smoke follows the flame, as an echo follows sound, the fact is a light that shines brightly and knowing is only its shadow – the fact is, and being now is being free to meet the fact anew, beyond the veil of story-time.
Being now offers us the gifts of freshness and vitality, openness and creativity; and these are not the result of accumulation – they are newly discovered in each moment of presence in the present moment. We can be practitioners of twenty years or two generations, it doesn't matter – one moment of drowning in the story, one moment of getting fooled by the drama of our accomplishments and failures, and there we go again, we have lost our way, we are lost in the way of time; and one moment of awakened presence, with each step into now, and here we are, simply being, seeing beauty wherever we are.
We can have very detailed knowledge of the path, we can acquire a lot of skill in meditation, we may have had many spiritual experiences, yet what determines our freshness, our vitality and creativity, our joy of inquiry and discovery, our living joy, the quality of our life in this present moment, is our attentive being in the now – this is love. All of these qualities of meditation have nothing to do with the process of Self, nothing to do with a progress over time, but with one thing alone: our attitude to what is now, our approach to the way things are; and that is why the key, the heart of present-moment meditation, is the way we relate to what is now – it is a way of being with what-is, this is what-is meditation.
Being now is meditation that involve no skill, as it doesn't rely on using means – it is immediate and direct; and when we discover in ourselves this readiness, this willingness to be now, this openness to life as it is in this very present moment, as we are sitting and breathing and listening, it is a presence that involves no movement in time … and therefore it is something we cannot hold on to – we need to find and re-find it, again and again, and in an instant let go, let it be, allow it to pass so that the next moment of now has the place to appear and come alive; once we discover it we cannot keep it in the cupboard, we cannot write our name on it and put it on the shelf – it does not last. Everything we buy nowadays has an expiration date written on it, but the expiration date of now is an instant that's immediately gone; the expiration date of living joy and true love does not last beyond this present moment, this instant of now – it's here, and it's gone … and so we have to discover and rediscover it each moment anew – we have to renew ourselves to be able to meet life anew, to awaken anew to now. This is why we've said that the way of now is not a way – it is an attitude, an approach – there is no way now; and that's why we need to rediscover this freshness, this vitality, each moment anew – this is the way of being truly alive.
Again and again, meditation is an openness to now – it is the freedom to love what-is; and this is the challenge of now: it is simple, and yet it is not easy to love what is now. We'd rather love some other time, some other person, if we could only shape it the way we'd like it to be … but it does not work this way; true love is only now – love is non-reactivity to what is now, non-resistance, love is reverence for life, it is the attentive attitude in the present moment. Let us re-present now, in different wording, the question that has been presented before: what do we truly want – are we interested in love, or in an idea of "love"? Are we free to love life as it is in this present moment? Are we interested in loving what is now – loving ourselves as we are, loving whomever we meet as they are? – this is the only real love.
Love is not choice and preference, discriminating likes and dislikes – love is choiceless openness to now; and any other "love" is a projected wishful thinking away from what-is now, a fantasy that has no validity – thought has no jurisdiction over life. And so, this is the question of now – the only essential question is regarding our attitude to now, each moment anew: are we attentive to the reality of life as it is in this present moment? – and if we are not, this is an imposition of our will and a projection of imagery, and this is not love! – and if we are awake to life as it is in the now, this is love.
Again, the question of life and meditation is truly simple: are we free to love now? Present-moment meditation is an invitation to look deeply at ourselves, in body and mind, to embrace what-is and to penetrate it beyond any story, and thus to be open to all that is now – this is love. The breath and the posture are also a part of what is happening in the present moment, of course, the body is here and now, everything is included in the meditation; but can we also look at our ideas and notions? Is it possible to be aware of the thought as thought, be present with the story as story – be present beyond time, and yet, be aware of the story of time, the story that we are telling ourselves throughout our life, the story of the Self?
Now we are here, as we are – this is the fact of what-is
– here and now, such is life; and when we face and meet what is now – being now
as time unfolds in body and mind, being attentive to life which includes the
story of time – being now, and what more do we need in order to live in peace
and joy, to be free to love, to be truly alive? Being meditation, simply being
present in open awareness – simply being, with neither resistance nor
reactivity – this is the way; and in this way we are free to love ourselves, to
love life, to love now – this is the freedom, this is the gift, the offering of