January 28, 2013

Can You Be In the Now & Still Plan for the Future?

A reader writes:

I often wonder how planning ahead relates to being in the moment. Thich Nhat Hanh must have to make a plane reservation occasionally. Right?

Great question. Particularly relevant at this time of year—when planning is rampant.

Let’s start with this—the path of Wisdom Heart is paved with paradoxes, not polarities.

For the surface mind, being in the now and planning are polarities. Even conflicting ways of relating to life.

From the paradoxical view of the Wisdom Heart consciousness there’s no conflict between planning and being in the now. How can this be?

It comes down to your basic stance, your relationship to life. The dualistic stance towards life is one of self-protection. Life, from within this self-protective stance, appears dangerous, threatening. Planning is a way of trying to control life events, shield yourself and those you love from danger, and manipulate experience.

The Wisdom Heart stance is quite different.
Rather than self-protective, this stance is self-emptying/opening/transcending. When you relate from Wisdom Heart consciousness, life is the great teacher, guide, and sustainer. Life is the goal and the path; unconditionally supportive and inclined towards your fulfillment.

You contact the unconditional support in the now. When attention resides in and opens to the present moment, you experience the uncontrived completeness of life. You’re in the now. Complete. There’s nothing to gain or protect as the barriers between your open heart and the heart of life dissolve.

This is where the paradox arises. The completeness of life that is discovered in the Now is expressed through the movement of time. The fundamental revelation of life’s blessing is discovered in the now. But it is embodied and expressed through time. Or more accurately, it’s partially embodied and partially expressed.

As the locus of awareness shifts from being in the now to being in time—you encounter the limits of your capacity. Capacity for what? For embodying and expressing the presence of the Wisdom Heart. You experience a gap between the completeness of being in the now and the incompleteness of being in time.

All the sacred traditions describe this lack-of-capacity. It’s a universal experience. Whenever you shift from the uncontrived completeness of now into time—the gap appears.

What to do?

How can you increase your capacity to bring the peace, presence and fulfillment of now into time? By making planning into a spiritual practice. How can planning be a spiritual practice?

By making plans that open you to life; that arise from the Wisdom Heart consciousness of life’s unqualified support. Rather than designing plans from the stance of self-protection and defensiveness—make plans that are designed to open you more fully, to move you more whole-heartedly into life.

(Please note: This is not an exercise in magical thinking. Life’s unqualified friendliness includes allowing you to hold on to your defensiveness as long as you choose. It’s up to you to build your capacity to embody and express Wisdom Heart consciousness in your life conditions.)

When you plan in this way, you’ll feel alive and vulnerable. It’s that paradox thing again. Planning that arises from the Wisdom Heart consciousness has a vibrant, alive quality. And it also exposes the places within you that are tender, hesitant and vulnerable. No need to hunker down or circle the wagons of self-protection. Rather, start to familiarize yourself with the paradoxical sensations/experience that comes from operating in time with Wisdom Heart consciousness.

Of course, the ideal way to develop this familiarity is through formal meditation practice. (You knew that was coming, didn’t you?)

In the language of the ancient yoga texts you are both ever-present-spirit and spirit-moving-through-time. Both.

In meditation practice you discover, breath-by-breath, moment-by-moment what this really means. You experience, through practice, the paradoxical connection between being in the now and moving through time. You discover this, not as an idea, but as an embodied revelation.

It’s from this embodied revelation that all your plans become spiritual practice. So, take a moment right now . . . to be still.

To shift the locus of attention from thinking to . . . the experience of now . . . feel the blessing of Life . . . rest in the ever-present now-ness of Wisdom Heart consciousness . . .

Then, turn towards your life—without breaking your connection to the Wisdom Heart. And make a simple plan. Become aware of something that you can do in the next few hours that would be an embodiment and expression of Wisdom Heart consciousness; something that, when you imagine it, generates sensations of aliveness and vulnerability.

Now, move into time to embody and express that.

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Ed: Lynn Hasselberger

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