Tag Archives: now

Freedom through Non-Attachment

dolphin swimming

About ten years ago, I participated in a 10-day silent Buddhist Vipassana meditation retreat in northern California. During the ten days, silence was to be observed at all times, the exception being that during breaks we could kneel before the teacher and ask a brief question.

The word Vipassana means to see things as they really are. Vipassana meditation is an ancient Indian practice that was rediscovered by Gautama Buddha himself some 2,500 years ago and resurrected by him as a practice for mastery of life.

Our retreat was led by Indian teacher S.N. Goenka from a distance through audio and video recordings, with his approved teachers physically present to guide us.

The key teaching in Vipassana is impermanence. The word Anicca (pronounced ah-nee-cha) means impermanence — things rise and pass. It is from the ancient Indian language, Pali, in which many of the earliest Buddhist literature is written. During our meditations, periodically S.N. Goenka’s voice could be heard on the recording, reminding us – anicca, anicca, anicca. It was a reminder to be present to the moment and not fixate on anything that was transpiring within us.

On day 4 of the retreat I was to have my breakthrough, but it wasn’t going to be pretty. During the first three days, my legs would cramp during our hour-long meditation sittings (10 per day). We were to choose a position to sit in during the hour and not change it for the duration of the sitting. After about 30 minutes, the cramping would start. My mind told itself, “Don’t worry, once you get used to it, the cramping will stop.” That got me through the first three days, but when the intense cramping was still there on the fourth day, I was highly agitated.

I decided that after the first meditation session on day 4, I would approach the teacher and simply ask him about the cramping. When the session ended I approached and kneeled before the teacher. He nodded indicating he would accept my question. I asked him, “If my legs are in severe pain during the meditation, should I still hold the position?” His response was, “If you can.” Nothing more was said.

I returned to my room feeling furious. I had previously defended Buddhist teaching when people said it was all about suffering by saying, “No, it is about the alleviation of suffering.” In that moment, in my mind, I began to curse the Buddhist teaching, thinking “It’s true. It is all about suffering. The teacher is perfectly fine with me suffering here.”

On this day 4, I was clear that I would not tolerate this pain any longer. Something had to change. I was even willing to break my agreement and leave early if necessary to alleviate my suffering. In this moment of desperation, I found my breakthrough. The lesson that had been obscured by all of my discomfort was the very simple lesson of the whole retreat – the awareness of impermanence and the practice of non-attachment to alleviate suffering.

I got it clearly – the pain didn’t need to go away, just my attachment to it going away did. For the remaining six days, the pain never did subside. One half hour or so into each session, the pain would begin. Instead of resisting it or wanting it to go away, I embraced it. I observed it with a degree of detachment. I even found some humor in it as I would observe, saying to myself, “How interesting it is that my legs are in such pain right now.” Without my resistance, the pain actually felt much less intense.

That day 4 of the retreat, I got the lesson of how the practice of non-attachment allows us to be with and see things as they truly are – impermanent.

The invitation this day is to remember that whatever we are experiencing right now, whether we call it positive or negative, shall pass. May we simply be in the joy of the moment, unattached to what is rising and falling away.

Enjoy the journey.

The Power of Right Now

by Gregory Toole

On the spiritual journey we learn the spiritual truth that now, or the present moment, is all we really have. Yesterday is gone, just a memory, and the future hasn’t yet arrived. When the future arrives we will still experience it in the present moment. Ernest Holmes, founder of the Science of Mind philosophy, wrote that principle is not bound by precedent, meaning that the spiritual principles that allow us to manifest the life we want are not dependent on what we have or haven’t been or had in the past.

This moment of right now is where our infinite possibilities lay. It is this moment where we are creating and experiencing life. In his book The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle writes, “I have little use for the past and rarely think about it.” Many do dwell in the past, and in doing so often keep recreating the past, or at least are unable to fully enjoy life. Memories can be fun, but what about all the life there is to experience right now?

In tennis, it is said that the best players have a short memory. Because the game happens so quickly, to be successful one has to be fully present to the moment of now. The last point is done, whether we hit a great shot and won the point, or if we hit a wayward shot and lost the point. It is done and truly has no bearing on the next point, unless we are still dwelling on the last point. Whether the last shot was the best or the worst we ever hit, dwelling on it will inhibit our being fully present to the current point, and diminish our ability to be successful.

This is also true in life, but not necessarily as evident. I met a woman once who had lent a large sum of money decades earlier that had never been repaid. From that point forward she had lived in lack, barely having enough money to meet her needs, lamenting that if the money she had lent had been repaid she would be doing great financially. Perhaps that is true, but what would happen if she focused her energies on manifesting prosperity in the present moment, rather having so much of her attention and energy on a past event?

Many of us have had experiences like this where we forget the truth in Holmes’ quote that principle is not bound by precedent. It’s okay because once we become aware that we have been focusing on a past event or a previous concept of who we are, we can choose in this moment to embrace a new concept. We can decide to accept a larger idea of who we are, what we can have and be, and what we choose to create now. Thus we are fully living now and likely energized by our expanded sense of possibilities.

What idea do you choose to let go of because it no longer represents your fullest expression in this moment? What do you choose to replace it with?

I know that some great good is wanting to burst forth in your life right now in this moment.

Enjoy the journey.