It’s strange to be on the other side of the world, waiting to go home. You’re ready but you’re also not ready. Home beckons but something doesn’t want the journey you were just on to end. So, the mind looks back at moments, snapshots in time that were short yet full. Reminiscing the past for moments that made us feel something, made us notice something. Some moments we wish we could re-live, some we wish we could replay, some where we wish we could have done differently. It is even stranger to eventually reach home feeling like you could have enjoyed the time there a little more. But what does one mean by a little more? How can we enjoy the moment more, as if it were like ordering at a restaurant, wishing one could have ordered this dish or that dessert.
We could force ourselves into focusing more in our experience but that would naturally make us focus on specifics in our experience and then we miss things that naturally arise and could enrich our experience. If we look at things that we want to find in our experience then we might miss the things that want to find us. Sometimes we need to be shown what we don’t necessarily want to see, are we open for that? Or, worse yet, we are left with this FOMO (fear of missing out) feeling. In either case wanting more form an experience is a trap that leads us to frustrate our experience with what we would like it to be. It not only frustrates our memory of past experience but also the moment we are reflecting about this experience in. The mind can take twists and turns to imagine how it could be different, how it could be better. But how often do we just appreciate what happened for what it was?
Paradoxically, it seems that the only way to get more out of any experience is to let go of the desire to get anything out of it at all. Suddenly the moment is thrown wide open, free of all our directing and narrowing that comes from our preexisting expectations imposed on it. “What do you want to get out of this moment?” we are asked, and then encouraged to acquire a kind of tunnel vision to this expectancy. But in all this taking, we don’t ask the second question – ‘what do you want to give to this moment?’ The surprising answer could be, ‘I want to give my attention, my presence.’ To behold the experiencing of experience in that simplicity, we find a wholeness that is otherwise unavailable in experience polluted with expectations, smoggy and unclear. Rather than accumulating a lot of gold and arranging it to see the light in a fantastical way, it is about removing the dirt and gunk of expectations, filters and judgements to reveal the ever-present gold underneath.
The word presence has been around for a while and although I feel it fits beautifully in this exploration, its definition might need some updating.
1. Presence is not only of the moment as a slice, like a slice of bread, but rather of the whole loaf. The moment is not to be taken as an isolated experience but an interconnected and wholesome one which is connected to the past and future.
2. Crucially, presence is not created. It is revealed. It already exists and just needs to be uncovered. Finding or looking for presence yields no results and false illusions. The conditions for presence can be created externally but also need to be primed internally. In either case, seeking for presence is nearly always a frustration.
Therefore, in our discovery of what it is like to be truly here and now, we need to silence the mind into being here, here, here, now, now, when? Now, what? Here, how, where? Now, huh? Here, now. Peeling the layers of filters to feel the flow of now.
The experience of experiencing
Neither praise nor blame. Neither amazement nor shock. What does an amazing and memorable experience provide? An attachment to a memory, a desire to recreate it or a longing for more? What does an undesirable experience create? An aversion to circumstances that could create that experience, a memory obscured and pushed away or a longing for some pleasure to compensate the pain? Some ice-cream to soothe the malady of the dark rain.
Neither desirable nor undesirable experiences have a quality that makes them amazing or dreadful. Whether we want to move towards or away from certain experience is something that’s guided by our own temperaments and tastes. Sudden changes in state create shock or surprise whether we are willing to receive them or not. It is in us to make that judgement and classify our experiences. When we don’t know what to make of them, our mind spins in circles trying to make sense of the situation while totally missing the depth of the experience that’s still ongoing. Our desire to define and compartmentalize our experience makes us miss it, almost entirely at times. Because the true depth of experience cannot be grasped in one single thought, nor can it be encapsulated in any simplistic understanding of the moment.
To understand experience as a whole, can only be achieved by understanding the things leading up to and aftermath of experience. Not to see the experience itself as an isolated entity. Taking this view, we can see that each experience leads to the next and then we must ask ourselves, how do we separate events? Are there really any separate events? It is at this point we see the sheer magnitude of interconnectedness and complexity present in each experience and our minds boggle. That is why we choose our experiences and selectively filter them and our understandings of them. We could perceive a million things but we only experience that which we give our attention to and to the extent to which our awareness is open to receiving that experience. Our thoughts of the same are mere conceptions rather than a wholesome beholding of the very same experience. A beholding that thought cannot capture. Our feelings are also selective perceptions of what experience brought up in us. Experience itself is not selective but rather inclusive. It is multidimensional and we can see that in how each experience is perceived by so many beholders in different ways and yet the experience itself stays whole.
Where attachment goes into action is when we have this selective perception and we confuse it for the whole and in that we desire more of it. Attachment or rejection takes us away from presence and this is key to experiencing. Experiencing is the flow of awareness within which we find all our experience. Experience is always there to be had and in that it is always present. And if we are present to experience without filters, without expectations, it reveals itself to us in all its magnitude and depth.
The present needs
Sometimes we’re unable to appreciate what’s right in front of us and that’s a symbol of our lack of presence. Whether it’s a clear blue sky, the light of the sun shining on the street or that love that we so yearn for. The thing that we truly seek might not be so far away. Maybe our ideas of delayed gratification are too delayed. Just kidding, but kind of rings true. Running around trying to achieve something beyond ourselves, for a sense of accomplishment, a desire to be seen, to accumulate material wealth or to satisfy the unending need for security. None of these needs have a definite end or point at which they’re satisfied. They’re a chase until we either give up or this chase consumes us.
What is the deeper need that we satisfy through these projected paths and how can these needs be met in a healthy way. Is the end of our projected needs some sort of peaceful state of harmony? A state in which we find that we are accomplished, fulfilled, happy and content? When we see our need for attention, is what we eventually want to be seen and held in the gaze of another or that we hold ourselves in our own minds eye? Is the need for security taking us to a place where we eventually don’t feel insecure? And if this sense of security is tied to external things and circumstances, which are always changing and impermanent then we will never have that need fulfilled and the loss of this illusion will forever haunt us.
Among the things we chase, we find that where we want to get to is actually where we want to be. The grind of getting there is simply something we accept as the inevitable suffering to any achievement. But what if where we want to get to, is where we already are. What if the destination, that state of peace, harmony and satisfaction is actually the way.
In this way, all action becomes not a striving to meet a need but rather a creative act born out of the fulfilled experience of life. Creativity as a symbol is important here because true creativity knows no end and is a process that recreates itself. A creative person is creative and does not harness creativity to produce art. Art is the by-product or fruit of an ever-blossoming tree of creativity. So, when we seek anything, the path of presence is to not look at it as a destination but as a way. And if we desire to appreciate and enjoy our achievements and accomplishments then we must learn to enjoy the way because at the very root of that enjoyment is presence. And in that presence, we find no lack.