By Adam J. Pearson
As I travel in this limitless world,
Every step I take is my home.”
~ Zen Master Dogen
Postponing is an interesting concept. It means putting off for the future. While we are believing the stories in our heads, we may be tempted to postpone peace and joy until some vague time in the distant future. The mind thinks: “I’ll be happy when…” “I’ll be peaceful when…” “When” imposes a future “release date” on joy and peace, like a release date for a movie: “Coming in 2015: Peace and Joy.” When the release date arrives, though, what happens? The mind replaces it with another one then another one then another one…
Where can peace and joy unfold but now? The movie of peace is playing right now, right here, at the only time it can ever be seen. It’s simply seemingly being drowned out by all the stories of past and future fulfillment. The truth is that fulfillment only ever happens now; this moment is filled full already!
We never even leave the theatre of the present moment; we’re just not paying attention to the ever-present film because the mind is so busy thinking of when we were peaceful and happy in the past and when we will be in the future. It’s the future conditions we place on peace that distract us from the peace that is here now, the future requirements we place on joy that distract us from the natural well-being that appears when the mind is quiet now.
We may also be tempted to postpone following the words written above the entrance to the Temple of Apollo at Delphi—Know Yourself! (γνῶθι σεαυτόν)– and put off finding out what we really are. The mind thinks: “I’m busy right now but in the future, I’ll really dedicate myself and I’ll “find myself” then.”
Of course, there is no future until the future becomes now; prior to now, the future is imagined based on our memories of the past and predictions of likely consequences of present events. In effect, a lifestyle of eternal postponement is a commitment to missing the ever-present. And you, dear friend, are the ever-present.
What in the mind thrives on time? The storytelling mental process that constantly tells itself the story of “me” does; thinking is a form of remembering and we know from cognitive neuroscience that cognition takes time. What am I prior to giving rise to a single though of “me”? What am I in the gaps between the thoughts of “me”? What am I when the thoughts of “me” have gone? We can look and see right now; less than an instant is needed to see what’s always here watching the stories about “me” come and go, totally unaffected by any of them.
It’s the mental process that says “I don’t have enough time to commit to finding out what I am.” And yet it seems to have tons of time to devote to its own stories about a thought-based “self” that never was, tons of time to project that imaginary “me” into a million pasts and a million futures that aren’t happening.
How much time does it take to find out what we always were, always will be, and are right now? No time at all! Only processes take time and what we are is not a product of a process, whether psychological or biological. It’s ever present in each moment. The thought that “I don’t have enough time” itself appears within the unimaginable, unforgettable, and unrememberable vastness of what we always, already are.
“I don’t have enough time” assumes we are in time. The ever-changing body-mind definitely is bound by time, but is the awake emptiness in which all of the body and mind’s changes seem to unfold also bound by time? Is it governed by clocks and intervals? Is that which silently watches the formless morphing in and out of form like bubbles in water bound by time? No speculation is required; we can find out directly, here and now.
The great Zen and Advaita masters tell us that beyond consciousness and unconsciousness, time and timelessness, mind and mindlessness, body and bodilessness, is what we truly are, the heart of every moment, the heart of right now, our own pristine true nature. It is always accessible in all places, at all times, shining through all experiences. What we are is vast beyond conceiving, far greater than our uninvestigated thoughts about “me” suggest.
Negating all that can be negated, dropping all that can be dropped, emptying all that can be emptied, without giving rise to a single thought of past and future, who am I?
Let’s look and see right now, dear friends, with all the Buddhas, Gurus, and Zen masters by our side. Prior to time and timelessness, prior to space and spacelessness, prior to form and formlessness, what remains?
To whom does the universe appear? Let’s find out now. To quote the Zen Master Dogen, “it’s too late to be ready.”
Part of a series on Nonduality: