Beyond the Romance of Now
"One who sees stillness in action, and action in stillness, truly sees." (Bhagavad Gita)
I take refuge in slicing a peach.
I take refuge in emptying the trash, stroking my blue-eyed kitten, grading papers, grinding coffee beans. I take refuge in whatever happens. And when I slice this peach, there's no romantic bubble called "now" around it.
Now, I give myself permission to drop the future. I give myself permission to drop the past. I give myself permission to drop the "now."
I tried taking refuge in the past, super-imposing an old and meaningful story onto the present. But I discovered that it's hard work dragging ancient stories, even the story of Jesus, into this moment.
I tried taking refuge in hope. But imagining a beautiful future means attempting to create a whole new world, and that's a big load to carry.
I tried taking refuge in God, but where was He when I really felt crazy? At the moment when I needed all my attention down here on earth, believing in someone "above" was a distraction.
Then I took refuge inside. I tried maintaining "mindfulness" throughout my frazzled workday. This practice taught me that, if 50% of me is outside and 50% of me is inside, I'm a half-ass businessman plus a half-ass monk. 50% + 50% = 50%.
So I started listening to Eckhart Tolle CD's, taking refuge in the "now." I opened a bright blue peace umbrella over my head to protect me from the dark rain of chaos. But an umbrella isn't much use when the storm is underneath the umbrella. "Now" was no different than the past, the future, or God. Half of me looking for "the present moment" while the other half tried to work, I was still hopelessly divided. "Now," it seems, is just another thought, another invention of the restless mind.
Is there is no refuge? No refuge ahead or behind, no refuge above or within, no refuge even now? Are we perpetually torn between doing the present task and looking elsewhere for meaning?
I thank my beloved master, Mahesh Yogi, for getting me out of this insufferable dilemma. He's been very patient: it's only taken me forty years to get it!
Yes! There is a way, but it's a paradox. I can't be 50% here and 50% there, but I CAN be 100% here and 100% there! It's as simple as this: meditate, then act.
When it's time to meditate, meditate. When it's time to act, go to work. One is absolute inner silence, the other is absolute commitment to the world. Renounce every effort to maintain a relationship between these two opposites. That's real renunciation.
With transcendental deep meditation, I begin the day, gracefully dissolving into silence. Then I forget about meditating. I act. Later in the day, when I need to recharge my awareness, I rest from action with a meditation break. Then once more, I get busy. Meditation and activity, resting and working, are completely opposite poles of life. But I don't fret over the contrast. Life IS this contrast, isn't it? Inward-outward, silence-action, getting-spending, spiritual-physical. Not fretting over the contrast is faith.
At some point in the foolish wisdom of this pathless journey, the glowing inner silence of meditation starts to irradiate the actions of the day. This is no big deal. In fact, it's the nature of our existence: we were just too busy to notice. Jesus called it "the kingdom of heaven right in the midst of you." St. Paul called it "being in the world, but not of the world." Quietness saturates our awareness even in the chaos of the market place. And when we are most busy, in the peak flow of our action, stillness happens!
If our action is life-sustaining, evolutionary, and in accord with our Dharma - which means our passionate life-purpose - then being 100% engaged in work spontaneously creates 100% stillness inside. Silence enfolds the noise. Cosmic purpose supports our mundane decisions. Each frantic moment is immersed in the ocean of eternal peace.
But this is not a practice: it is the result of practice, the grace-given fruit of morning and evening meditation.
I take refuge in slicing this peach. Having sliced this peach, I eat it.
Jai Guru Dev