“If he lacks this focus, if his soul is dispersed in the manifold from the beginning, then he will never have time to make the movement; he will constantly be running errands in life, never entering eternity, for even at the moment when he is closest to it he will suddenly discover that he has forgotten something and consequently must go back” Søren Kierkegaard
The mind is an expert list maker. It is the original task manager. Prioritizing, schematizing, constructing and planning. In the same way that your skin doesn’t stop feeling the world, the mind never stops conceiving. As such - it is easy to be scattered and diffuse. For even when the body is still, the belly is full, and the heart is content - the mind will find something more to do.
“If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present” Ludwig Wittgenstein
Yet if we wish to enter the eternal, we must recognize when it is time to put down the mind. Timelessness is entered when we step out of time. And what is time but succession? And what is the most salient form of succession if not our stream of thoughts? To dwell in the eternal present is to stop being pulled by the mind. It’s not about having nothing to do, it’s about doing nothing.
“Eternity isn’t a long time. Eternity has nothing to do with time. Eternity is that dimension of here and now which thinking and time cuts out” Joseph Campbell
We have little confidence in the present moment. Try this experiment. Muster up all of your willpower and prompt yourself: “I will now watch intently for my next thought”. In the space, however small, between your aspiration and the awareness of your next thought - is the eternal. That brief moment is the timeless realm. We know what it tastes like - yet we are continually pulled out of it by thoughts and feelings. Kabir says:
“The savour of wandering in the ocean of deathless life has rid me of all my asking: As the tree is in the seed, so all diseases are in this asking”
The ocean of deathless life is the timeless present. The present is where we can watch reality. Yet if we depart from the present and follow every question the mind asks, we fall into dis-ease. For the dis-ease is not the mind commenting on situations, but on our belief in these comments.
Student: “How can I find my Buddha-nature?”
Master: “You have no Buddha-nature.”
Student: “What about animals?”
Master: “They do have Buddha-nature”
Student: “Then why do I not have Buddha-nature”
Master: “Because you have to ask” -Unknown Zen exchange
If you have to ask, then you have left the present. The realm of time is the realm of succession. And the realm of succession is the realm of asking. Imagine a conversation with only questions - one never leaves the conceptual realm. Even Helena Ravenclaw, the founder of Ravenclaw, knows that:
If you have to ask, you’ll never know
And so the question remains - why are we conditioned and almost compelled to depart from the present moment? Attachment and Karma.
We can understand this by taking karma to mean habit and safety. Karma is repetition of that which keeps us safe - and repetition breeds more repetition. To act skillfully is to come out of the most seductive repetition of all - of being attached to the results of your actions. Karma is the bondage of being fixated on outcomes. The bondage of being fixated on what is yet to be. And surely this habit of mind kept our ancestors safe and helped them actualize their grande potentials. But today, in our world of distraction, in a world where the ground is no longer solid, we cannot afford to dwell anywhere but here - lest we lose ourselves entirely.
And what happens when we act with half our mind focused on “doing a good job” or on “tomorrow”? Well, we then give only half of ourselves to the means of accomplishment and the other half to worry - and no great end is attained with a half measure of effort. However, when your energy is centred on means, centred on the present, centred on actually doing what you’re doing - then you are abiding in the eternal. And by abiding perfectly in the eternal, you are making it manifest in the human realm. I’m not saying don’t plan - I’m saying be deliberate in separating planning and doing. When you plan just plan and when you do just do. For if you do everything you do with everything you have - everything will always be okay.
It is as it is.