“The absolutely vital thing is to become capable of enjoyment, of living in the present, and of the discipline which this involves” Alan Watts
Developing a new capacity for enjoyment is always a challenge, whether it be a more refined palate, more dexterity, or acquiring new concepts. But Alan speaks not of another mode of sensory enjoyment, but of the very capacity to enjoy. A non-discriminatory capacity to take pleasure in the flow of being.
And this task, developing this capacity, is our birthright.
And it is also a burden. And it is one we must start to carry immediately.
"As the computer and the robot are taking over the activities of thought, we have only two choices. Either we pursue pleasure and entertainment, or we enter into the whole psychological world and see how far, how deeply we can go into it." Jiddu Krishnamurti
It takes no discipline to dream and live in our heads. We are thinking machines, and whether conscious or in the background, our mind never ceases to elaborate and scheme. You may think you’re already in the present moment, and sure you are, but as Zen teacher Kosho Uchiyama says:
“In whatever situation, the present moment is the present moment. And yet, it is possible to lose sight of the present moment, and at that time, it is no longer the present for us”
Try to stay fixed on your nostrils, fixed on the sensation of your breath passing in and out for just one minute. You will notice that staying in the present moment, holding fast here and now, not allowing yourself to be pulled around - is a very strenuous ordeal. There is discipline involved, and as master Jigme Lingpa writes:
“The root of practice is renunciation”
The root of the discipline is letting go. This doesn’t mean giving up your home and becoming a hermit - but giving up your attachments. Not in a dramatic way either, but can you give up, just for a minute, attachment to the five senses? Can you give up attachment to the old habit of following sounds, smells, ideas, and feelings in search of their cause? Can you abide right at the nose and renounce all else?
To develop the capacity to notice the true enjoyment inherent in just this moment is the hardest journey on earth. And as with all hard things, it is a long road.
“And you, when will you begin that long journey into yourself?” -Rumi
And as with all long journeys, it is worthwhile. I would say a particularly valuable pointing, emphasized strongly in the dzogchen tradition, is the distinction between experience and concept.
“You have to watch out for nonsense questions because you have to keep remembering this distinction between experiences and concept. When we go into the realm of concepts many, many things become interesting because each concepts is like a mirror which reflects other concepts and through them we come to live in this hall of representations.” James Low
It is only when we step outside of this hall, that we are able to hold moments with deliberateness. And this is why we must walk the long road - to reawaken our capacity to be in awe of experience. To reawaken the insight of Emily Dickinson that:
“Beauty is not caused. It is”
“Everything passes. Nobody gets anything for keeps. And that’s how we’ve got to live” -Haruki Murakami
Murakami gives us another platitude on impermanence. But, maybe this time, we’ll take it to heart.
It is as it is.
The origin of ‘It is as it is’
Guided Meditation on Tilopa’s Six Essential Points
Sometimes the best quotes are right before your eyes! (Like on your teabag)