Staying and Straying: The Tension of Two

KMHunerImage; McCord Park; Tallahassee
KMHuberImage

The fear of letting go makes staying hard and straying easy. As Mark Nepo says, it is “so hard to feel the stone and not the ripple.” It is the tension of trying to be in two places at once, resisting what is for what might be.

“The moment we stray from where we are…we [block] the sensation of being fully alive because being split in our attention prevents us from being authentic” (Mark Nepo).

When we stray to a past moment that gives us pain or joy or both–how we label it really doesn’t matter–the memory provides us with what it has always provided us, a moment that was reality but no longer exists. Yet, that memory appears in the present moment.

KMHuberImage
KMHuberImage

In staying with what each moment offers, memories bubble up—memory is the context of our mind–it is one thing to witness our memories and another to engage them. When we stray to them, we divide our attention and are no longer authentic but somewhere in between.

We can’t help but remember, yet if we allow our memories to stay as bubbles, floating up and through us, we let them go as they are, untouched and whole. As Pema Chödrön teaches, it is the energy beneath memory that is worth our attention for it is the source of the bubbles.

For each moment that we practice being present—neither running from nor holding onto—we feel the stone and not the ripple for we are not attaching or resisting. There is no tension of straying or staying. These moments seem few.

The difficult and the joyous moments we always revisit for those are bubbles we want to forget or we want to remember always. Regardless, we stray. In remembering, sometimes we try to change the outcome by daydreaming new scenarios or we just simply want to relive the moment, maybe embellishing it just a bit. Once we stray, there are no limitations.

Regardless, the memory bubbles will return and keep returning until we practice staying in each moment we have. Our practice begins with our inner resources, the “four limitless qualities [of] loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity” (Pema Chödrön). We begin with whatever quantity there is of each, no matter how shallow the pool.

We go to what we are because it is what we genuinely and completely feel. We may aspire but we begin right where we are. A well can fill, a pool can become a lake but always, there is the first drop.  For us, always there is the present.

KMHuberImage; McCord Park; Tallahassee; Florida
KMHuberImage

What we actually are–a limitless pool of inner resources–spills into our actions in everyday life. It is a pool to which we may return again and again, staying with what is genuine rather than straying into what was or might be. There is no resistance, just the feel of the stone.

“That we stray from the moment is not surprising. The more crucial thing is that we return” (Nepo).

18 thoughts on “Staying and Straying: The Tension of Two

  1. From my experience , i’ve found that by regular practice of yoga and meditation………we can use our own body to train our mind and when the mind is calmer …it becomes easier to be in the now

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  2. There seems to me to be a conflict here with my sense of history and the past and how important that is to me. I don’t dwell in the past or on it in an unhealthy way but I use it to make sense of my life and find my place in that timeline. As the comment from slowdancejournal says it can be a positive thing. I do dwell in the moment when I need to!

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    1. As I mentioned to Adrian (slowdancejournal), the post doesn’t discuss the distinction between witnessing our past and getting stuck in it. Thus, the implication is the past is suspect, similar to your point, I think. All we have experienced is our foundation for now, and if we proceed from that premise, we are in our present completely, for we are fully aware of it. I really appreciate the thoughtful comment, Diana. Thanks!

      Karen

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  3. Being on the road just now means very definitely being in the moment, straying from writing plans and goals to focus on this very precious time I have with my husband (his health is a little frail just now). I so appreciate your posts that keep me thinking here and now, this moment, this stone.

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment from the road, Beth. As you know, I really enjoy your “On the Road” posts. How wonderful that you and your husband are able to experience the wonders of the road together. You are in my thoughts, Beth.

      Karen

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  4. Another thought provoking post, Karen and one I think many of us can relate to. It seems that it is always about the underlying energy coupled with how we can get ourselves to return to the present moment. I watched a video teaching from, Sharon Salzberg last month for the meditation challenge and the main point she stressed was that critical moment when we realize we have drifted. I am also tempted to revisit the past or jump to the future but I am trying to work at spending more time in the present…one breath at a time. Thank you again for starting my week with mindfulness.

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    1. Yes, Stephanie, the “underlying energy” of the past, which will, at times, catapult us into the future, if we are not cognizant. In reading Pema Chodron, I am learning to probe for what is beneath the bubbles, ever mindful to let the bubbles be. Have not heard of Sharon Salzberg so will check her out. Always appreciate your insightful comments.

      Karen

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  5. The past is also the source of stories–because the past is complete and memory carefully reshapes it into something that makes a coherent whole. In this way the past is useful. It creates our sense of the world.

    I am filled with positive stories from my past and even the past of my family. These stories color my view of this moment and predispose me to find it good. This may not honor the present as completely as being fully in the moment but the stories support my belief in the benevolent nature of life.

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    1. What this post does not clarify is the witnessing of our past as opposed to engaging and getting stuck in it. Above, Diana makes a similar point. A witness mines the past for the wealth that it is, just as you say, for our past is our foundation for our present. Thanks so much, Adrian!
      Karen

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  6. Thank you Karen for this reminder to stay present. I have been gently guiding myself back to the moment. Jeff Foster really reminds me of embracing the present “movement.” I love the last Nepo quotation. There seems to be some self-compassion there. {{{Hugs]}} KOZO

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    1. Being present does seem to encompass a bit of back and forth, meaning staying as a witness to all that bubbles up as opposed to engaging in what was or will be. As you know, I, too, am quite taken with Jeff Foster; Nepo’s writing is my daily morning meditation companion. Thanks so much, Kozo.

      Karen

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