Monday, June 29, 2009

Now and Zen

I've been trying for some time now to stay present, in the moment and aware, but as I'm only human I am thinking of about 10 different things at once more often than not. No wonder we so frequently feel overwhelmed! When my mind starts to race or I find myself trying to do to much and as a consequence am overwhelmed I stop and take a few deep breaths. One thing at a time, prioritize. Then I can concentrate on what I'm doing. I find it amazing that when I do that, even the most mundane tasks becomes a bit more interesting.

Our culture is so enmeshed in the more, more, more philosophy: work more so you can buy more; the more you have the more you want; get more done, be more productive. Even when we're aware of this unhealthy cycle it is very difficult to break out of it because this how our society operates. We're always thinking of the next thing we need to do and not concentrating on our present moment.

While I was a patient at MGH I had several interesting conversations with one of the RTs who was taking care of me. He was a Buddhist and told me this great little story about staying in the moment: Once there was a man, who, while walking one day came upon a hungry tiger. The tiger started to chase him. He ran, only to find himself up against the edge of a high cliff. What to do? He faced a certain death if he stayed, the tiger would eat him. He decided to jump. As luck would have it as he went over the cliff, about 5 feet down there was a plant growing out of the side of the cliff. He grabbed the branches and hung on for dear life. Growing on the plant he noticed a single red, juicy, sweet strawberry. He picked the fruit, ate it and enjoyed it. The end.

Wait a moment! That's the end? What happened to the man? What about the tiger? Did he survive the fall?

It doesn't matter how the story ends, that's not the point. The point is that he ate the strawberry and enjoyed it. Moral: enjoy what you are doing at the moment, no matter the circumstances. Had the man been thinking about the tiger chasing him, or the fact that he was hanging by a small branch over a large drop he probably wouldn't have even noticed the strawberry. But he was present to his situation, and while he was eating the strawberry, he was fully aware of how it smelled, the color and the taste. He didn't waste what were probably his last few moments alive worrying about his fate and what was to become of him.

I'm sure I'm not expressing the thoughts as eloquently as the Zen RT, but hopefully my explanation makes sense. Pay attention to what you are doing. The end.


Tina said...

Hurray! I love this post, fits me to a "T". I'm working on it. My therapist recently recommended a book "Unquiet Mind". Have you heard of it? I personally recommend "The Power of Now" Ekhardt Tolland. I have the book on CD (7). Hmmm maybe I'll listen to them again. Gotta get my zen groove on.

Clamshellmuni said...

How true. This story is also one of the best sequences in the entire King of the Hill oeuvre, and one of the best episodes -- Season 3 I think.

I hope the Zen RT beat your ass mindfully and did not shove a neb into your craw and start multitasking like the rest of them.

Tina, Tolle is interesting. Do you have A New Earth?