WHAT ABOUT NOW?
Episode 1: The great Zen Master Eihei Dogen taught "if you cannot find the truth where you are now, you will never find it." In this episode, we'll explore this teaching to understand how these century-old words can have a dramatic impact on our lives today.
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If you cannot find the truth where you are now, you will never find it.
Welcome to this perfect moment, a podcast dedicated to helping you use ancient wisdom to unlock your life of radical happiness, connection and meaning right here, right now. I'm your host Eric Walrabenstein, and I'm glad you're here.
These words were spoken some 800 years ago by a great Zen master named Dogen and they have as great a relevance, a practical relevance, to us today as they did to his monks way back then.
But before we get to that, let's talk about the elephant in the room. Podcast. This is something that I've been asked to do for quite some time and actually something that I've wanted to do for quite some time. As many of you know, I have a great many students and friends living in far off lands all across the nation and in fact sprinkled around the globe. And it seems like this would be a great way to conduct a kind of joint exploration into the wisdom and practices from yoga and meditation and mindfulness as well as the other great spiritual traditions.
Although I will say this; though we will be dealing with so-called spiritual wisdom and techniques, this is not really an exercise in spirituality as much as it is an exercise in empowerment, an empowerment that can be used for whatever purposes you desire. It certainly could be for spiritual reasons, but just as easily it could be to create more harmonious relationships, to foster healing, or even just to elevate the levels of happiness and success in our lives.
So, I'm looking forward to some insightful discussions that I hope will be of service. And of course, if you have specific topics or questions you'd like to see addressed in future episodes, I would love to hear from you. Just head on over to my website at www.ericwal.com, that's ERICWAL.com and drop me a note.
If you cannot find the truth where you are now, you will never find it.
For me, this teaching from Zen master Dogen can be summed up in three words: What about now? And I remember when I first heard this many years ago, sitting in a cold and darkened meditation center, it really struck me because I had built a life that was almost exclusively focused on living for the future.
And I think it's important to recognize that Zen master Dogen could have just as easily and accurately said, if you cannot find lasting happiness where you are now, you will never find it. And at that time in my life I was hell bent on getting there, getting to the place where I had the right job, I had the right bank account balance, I drove the right car, I had the right relationship, I lived in the right house. And then, my twisted mind told me, I would be lastingly happy.
In retrospect, I can see how willing I was to mortgage my happiness in this moment in exchange for some promised fantasy life that was yet to come. And of course, that perfect fantasy never came. Well, truthfully, it did come in pieces, but none of those pieces delivered the kind of lasting happiness and fulfillment and fullness that I had imagined they would.
And at this point my life, I can see clearly why it's because the truth is that to find happiness here and now, one needs a completely different skillset from the one that's needed to find happiness out there in the future.
And the fact of the matter is, if you think about the way that we have been raised and the way that we have been taught and the way that we see people going about their lives to our left and our right, we are all attempting to get there to that imagined future, to that place where we can finally be happy.
Back to Dogen's words--if you cannot find lasting happiness where you are now, you will never find it. Because the funny thing about there out there in the future is that once you get there, it becomes here and finding happiness here in this moment, it requires a completely different process.
When we think about finding happiness in the future, it's all about changing our circumstances. We plan and we scheme and then we make effort and we struggle and we strive to change our circumstances so that they will finally cooperate with our preferences and agendas. But with happiness in this moment, change is not an option because this moment--prepare yourself for a blinding flash of the obvious--cannot be any different from how it is, at least for now.
And so, while nearly all of us have learned to rely on change and changing our circumstances to get to that place where we can finally be happy in this moment, those skills are obsolete, they're ineffective, they're impotent, because change is not possible here and now in this moment, at least for now.
It's funny because I ask my students often time when they would like to be happy, invariably the answer comes back. Well now and then the second question comes, what would it take for you to be happy now?
And that answer comes back in various shapes and forms. Sometimes it's if I had a better relationship or if my health was improved, if I got a promotion or if I lived in another town. And of course, none of this change is possible in this moment.
So, in an ironic twist, when we combine the notion that I would like to be happy now with the next thought that something needs to change in order for me to be happy, I'm really saying that my happiness now is not possible, which is why we need to realize that if we wish to be happy in this moment, we need to learn how to be happy with it as it is.
I think back to my 20 some odd year old self sitting in that dank meditation chamber when I first heard this teaching, I could finally see clearly that my near exclusive focus on my future happiness was blinding me to the possibility of my happiness now. And not only was it blinding me to the possibility of it, but it was causing me to live my life in a way where that happiness now was impossible.
I had no interest in coming into a harmonious relationship with this moment because I was convinced that if I could just make the right kinds of changes and achieve the right kinds of things, that the moment would take on a shape that made me spontaneously happy. And therein was my grave miscalculation.
The miscalculation that kept me caught in moment after moment after moment of struggle and dissatisfaction focused on that promised moment that was to come if I could just get things right.
So with this insight, namely how so many of us are unwittingly selling the possibility of happiness right now in this moment down the river in exchange for the possibility for happiness in the future, the invitation becomes to stop, stop the struggle, stop the scheming, stop the calculating, the manipulating. Stop with the idea that somehow, it's going to get better.
Not that it won't get better mind you, but we need to see clearly how our idea that it will get better stands in the way of us doing what we need to do, or said better, being in the way that we need to be to find happiness here and now.
This is the first and most important step to finding the happiness, the fullness, the joy that we crave in this moment and this moment and this moment. And here's how that works.
Step one is to be interested in this well-worn tendency to look to some other imagined moment for your happiness. When you find yourself standing in the slow line at the grocery store, notice the mind's tendency to try to get you to change lines. When caught up in some menial task at home or work, watch the mind's tendency to want it to be over or for someone else to have to do it. And when you're caught walking in a downpour, notice the tendency to want to break into a run and realize that in another great Zen master’s words, Suzuki Roshi, the rain is everywhere in this moment. And in this moment there is no escape.
Once we become intimate with this, for many of us, unconscious tendency to constantly be struggling against this moment to be in a perpetual search for something better with the underlying idea that this moment is somehow inadequate, we then open the door for forging a new kind of relationship with the moment that we're in.
And this is so important because the truth of the matter is that our suffering comes not from the shape of the moment. It comes from our dysfunctional relationship to the shape of the moment.
Impatience doesn't come from traffic. It comes from the idea that the traffic should be moving faster. Frustration doesn't come from the dirty dishes in the sink. It comes from the mind's idea that the dirty dishes should not be in the sink. My frustration that the numbers on the scale read 20 pounds too much don't come from the numbers on the scale. They come from the idea that this moment should somehow be different from how it is and as we've already seen, it can't be, at least for now.
So if we truly wish to find lasting happiness, we need to understand that each and every moment will continue to bubble up in its own unique way and that each and every moment is truly pregnant with the possibility of lasting happiness independent of its contents, and that the only way to our happiness here and now is through our effort to come into a harmonious relationship with it as it is.
This all brings us to the corollary of Dogen's words. If you can find the truth here, you will find it everywhere and so it goes with lasting happiness.
Thanks so much for joining me and if you found value in the discussion, please subscribe and when you have a moment, leave an honest review about the podcast. It'll help me fine tune the offerings as well as help other people to know if the broadcast may be of value to them.
Lastly, just a reminder, I'd love to hear from you so you can have questions, comments, or suggestions for something you'd like to see in a future episode. Please get in touch at www.ericwal.com.
Again, thanks so much. I appreciate you and I'll see you in the next episode.