The Way of the Student
We freeze our concepts, or models, as snapshots of reality. But the environment does not freeze along with them. It continues to express its transient nature in each moment. To react skillfully to phenomena, it seems sensible that we would need to see clearly what is now rather than what was when we took the snapshot.—Darrell G. King
It is the nature of human beings to mentally relive the past or predict the future. From these skills I learn lessons from what has happened and apply them to improve the future. A valuable survival tool when used correctly, but also a double-edged sword with the power to replace life with illusion and fantasy.
The past is done and can not be changed - I can remember only my own filtered version. The future is yet to come and the best I can do is imagine possibilities. Yet how often do I get wrapped up in my memories or predictions, replaying them over and over? I miss the vivid beauty of the moment by painting it over with the washed-out colors of reruns.
My mood is directed by my thoughts. My behaviors follow my thoughts. If I do not choose my thoughts, I suffer the consequences that follow. If I select my thoughts for health and happiness, I reap the benefits.
I can choose which thoughts to entertain, which to focus on, which to spend time with. It takes practice, but it is my birthright. When I have learned this, I will be happy and serene despite the events occuring in the environment around me. I will not be creating my own misery with the scripts running in my mind.
These are my thoughts, meaning they belong to me, but they are not me. This is true also of my emotions. I can use these things or disregard them; I do not have to become them. Realizing this simple truth moves me from being the thinker to being the observer of the thoughts.
Mindfulness is the practice of focusing attention on a given thing. I can practice mindfulness of my breath, mindfulness of my body, mindfulness of a thing. Meditation is a form of mindfulness - focusing fully on a given concept or object. When I am mindful, I am not absent-minded. I am present in the moment, not lost in some story in my head.
I am alive right now, in this moment. When it has passed, I will not come back to it. What I will do right now is the most important decision of my life because it is the only decision I have control of. Past decisions are carved in stone, future ones may never happen. The present moment is when I have choices. If I chose to "pass the time", to waste the moment, I give up life. If I am focused on what I am doing, I am not waiting for something else.
I take a breath and savor the air, follow the rise and fall of my chest. I compose this prose and watch my mind sift words and concepts, feel the metal keys beneath my fingerpads, the pressure of the chair against my body. I am alive right now, in this moment, and everything is exactly as it should be right now.