I often think of present moment awareness as a matter of balance, and whenever I think of balance, I think of Buddha nature: “The reason everything looks beautiful is because it is out of balance, but its background is always in perfect harmony” (Shunryu Suzuki).
The background balance of Buddha nature is the source of the infinite possibilities available to us in every moment we have. Our lives are up-and-down, in and out, and all the while, the balance of Buddha nature holds it together while we try this and that.
There are many names for Buddha nature— the web that has no weaver, God, Allah, the Tao— and underlying them all is impermanence, the pain and pleasure of existence. All the great traditions offer ways to accept impermanence, for if we can wrap ourselves around the idea that change is what offers us opportunities, we can live in the moment for all that we are.
There is no one way to present moment awareness but all the great traditions encourage living life fully present. They offer prayer and meditation as tools but only we can find our middle way for balance is uniquely personal.
Yet, the nature of impermanence is that balance requires constant adjustment. Just when we think we have found balance, a way to live that accounts for most possibilities, something changes. Sometimes, everything changes or at least seems that way.
Those are the moments of greatest opportunity but they often require everything of us. Our emotions rage. These are not moments to be passed off in positive platitudes or repressed in any way. These are moments to explore the energy beneath the emotion. Present moment awareness plunges us into the energy without the thought.
Many of the traditions define emotion as raw energy with thought or a story attached to it. Usually, many stories emerge with our emotions. It is the stories that bubble up and we attach to them. Before we know it, our thoughts have removed us from the rawness of what is occurring.
The result is we either stuff the emotion away or devise a strategy to control what we are feeling but regardless, we do not immerse ourselves in the rawness but impermanence is the nature of existence, so we will get another opportunity. What present moment awareness offers is a way to wake up and be in the rawness.
It is not surprising that we are resistant to being in the moment for it means accepting the unknown, yet we do not doubt that life is unpredictable. We want a certain amount of unpredictability in our lives but we do not want to be uncomfortable.
When something outside our regular routine occurs, we get unsettled, and we struggle for balance. Whether the occurrence is as minor as not being able to get a cup of coffee or if it is life-changing, accepting impermanence as the nature of our lives gives us the power to deal with change. It is not approval of any event but acceptance of impermanence.
“So this place of meeting our edge, of accepting the present moment and the unknown, is a very powerful place for the person who wishes to awaken and open their heart and mind…it is what propels us toward transformation…the present moment is the fuel for your personal journey” (Pema Chödrön).
Meditation and prayer are two, sustainable fuel resources and always available. We begin within so that we may be all we want to be to the world. In finding our unique middle way, we awaken our hearts and minds to the ways of the world, able to adjust to its constant flux.