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A Good Time


It seems these days you can’t go very far in spiritual circles without hearing the phrase “just be in the moment.” I’ve often wondered what that means and how it’s supposed to help us.


If you are depressed, the only thing staying in the moment gets you is a series of sad moments. There’s nothing enlightening about staying there. If our current situation sucks, we need some hope of it getting better, and that means having a future. But the future never comes, does it. When you go somewhere, you’re never really there, because you imagine it’s something different. No matter where you go, you carry some baggage with you. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, because you’re sick of the grass here. And when you hop that fence, guess what, you’ll eventually find that the grass sucks over there too.


It’s like a gerbil on treadmill spinning around with no purpose except movement for movement’s sake. In oh so many words, this is samsara.


To be free of samsara, it is said, you must be free of cause and effect (karma) and the ravages of time. As I understand it, this eternity that sages keep going on about is not a long stretch of time, it is simply our present awareness, right now. This present is free from the story of our lives; it does not conform to a plot of beginning, middle, or end. It is like a canvas that we paint the colors of emotions, feelings, and thoughts, but itself is not those colors. It has no parts, it has nothing to continue or discontinue. There is no ahead, behind, permanence, or impermanence in this moment. That’s why the Buddha resisted descriptions of nirvana, lest his followers confuse the paint with the empty canvas. If you'll notice, when you concentrate, whatever you pay attention to expands. It is not the object that is expanding, but you. And in this absorption (Samadhi) there are no worries. This taste of eternity is so simple it normally slips through the sieve of the past-present-future filter.


Does that make sense? Even to my own ears it sounds like little more than gibberish, but that’s the best I can do. To understand you just have to play the game, meditate, meditate some more, until it becomes apparent that this consciousness you have right now is the only one. You didn’t attain it and you can’t lose it. You can do all sorts of exotic exercises with the mind. You can visit other dimensions, seeing bright lights, hearing beautiful sounds, or even hearing bright lights, and seeing beautiful sounds. This subtle dimension, the realm of soul, is amazing. But this too will pass. What matters is the timeless ground of being, otherwise known as the Causal, or Godhead, the Brahman that is Atman. The sages of formless mysticism instruct us to look into our boring old minds, the ones we carry with us day in and day out. We normally ignore it because it doesn't stimulate us with anything new. But you must investigate it, just as it is, stripped of all its colorings. It’s a hidden treasure in an ugly chest. It’s like the scene toward the end of the movie "Indian Jones and the last Crusade," where the Holy Grail was the plainest, most humble cup in a trove of fancy chalices.


And if that makes no sense at all, I’d like to end with something that might give a clue as to what it really means to be in the moment. It would help to make a distinction used in Christian mysticism. It’s a subtle, yet nonetheless important point. When we hear the phrase “being in the moment,” it’s easy to confuse that moment with what’s called in Latin “nunc fluens” - the moment that flees. Maybe it’s a second, or a millisecond, it flashes by. There’s nothing really special about this fleeting moment. But God’s moment is beginningless and endless. This is “nunc stans” - the eternal moment. If you get with God, you’ll find the party of all parties, the time of your life, good friends.