What is the difference between patient surrender (last month’s promise) and opening to each moment (this month’s promise)?
Sometimes life gets to be too much. If that happens, it’s a sign that we are working too hard to hold it all together. Sometimes we just get confused about what’s going on and think it’s all up to us.
The truth is, we don’t have to be doing the holding. If we are putting so much effort into life, we are struggling against reality. Better to surrender. Life is big enough and old enough to take care of itself.
Mindfulness is about staying in the present moment.
My dog, a natural creature, has no problem doing that. She doesn’t regret or worry or plan. Last Sunday we took her to get washed and have her nails clipped. She doesn’t like it. She lets us know by digging in her heels for those last few steps into PetSmart. Once we’re in the grooming salon, she surrenders patiently and from then on she is here now.
I am not a natural creature. I get caught up in my stories. My stories are mostly about fear of the future or not being enough. These stories trigger big emotions. Believing the stories are true, I get caught up in the emotions. All of a sudden I am gnashing my teeth and wailing unnecessarily. Right now, in this moment, everything is fine. For me, returning to the moment takes effort.
Here is a story from Bhikkhu Bodhi:
“Three boys go to a park to play. While walking along they see a tree with flowering tops and decide they want to gather the flowers. But the flowers are beyond the reach even of the tallest boy. Then one friend bends down and offers his back. The tall boy climbs up, but still hesitates to reach for the flowers from fear of falling. So the third boy comes over and offers his shoulder for support. The first boy, standing on the back of the second boy, then leans on the shoulder of the third boy, reaches up, and gathers the flowers.
“In this simile the tall boy who picks the flowers represents concentration with its function of unifying the mind. But to unify the mind concentration needs support: the energy provided by right effort, which is like the boy who offers his back. It also requires the stabilizing awareness provided by mindfulness, which is like the boy who offers his shoulder. When right concentration receives this support, then empowered by right effort and balanced by right mindfulness it can draw in the scattered strands of thought and fix the mind firmly on its object. ¹”
In order to stay in this moment, I need strength, balance and concentration. The image of the three boys is a nice one to carry in my mind along with my intention to pay attention.