Like a Snake Shedding Its Skin

Ajahn Yatiko • May 2013

Many of us often live in a fog of time. We can become caught up in this fog—completely absorbed and obsessed with experiences that happened in the past or we hope will happen in the future. It’s as if this perception of time has a reality to it that’s independent of our own machinations and creations of the mind. But it’s not separate, it’s created and a part of our perception like everything else we experience. Sometimes we get entrapped and absorbed in it through the different physical and emotional difficulties we have, and we can’t seem to rise above it.

But sometimes we can rise above it. Sometimes we can experience a clear perception of the present moment—the whole aspect of the mind that creates time through projection, memory, and hope. It is a vivid, here-and-now perception of what we’re observing—like a portal, where we slip through the delusion of the created world we live in, and suddenly, we’re in the present moment, which is grounded in reality and has a sense of authentic truth.

A metaphor comes to mind of a snake shedding its skin. The Buddha uses this image in the most profound sense, but I think it also applies to the present moment, where the snake’s skin stands for time: this scaly, falsely created outer skin of delusion that’s part of our own making. We move through it and leave it behind, which makes us naked and vulnerable. It’s not vulnerable in the sense of being fragile or easily damaged. It’s vulnerable in the sense of being able to receive the reality of the present moment—including everything we create in our minds—from a bare, new, and open field of awareness. It’s freeing, liberating, lucid, and it has the quality of truth to it.

When we’re caught up in our problems and locked into our difficulties and can’t access the truthfulness of the present moment, we only have one option: patience. Sometimes we can’t connect with the present moment because we’re captivated by our actions and the results we’re receiving from our actions. When that’s the case, we have to be patient. There’s nothing else we can do. Just because we cannot connect with the present moment doesn’t mean we should give up on the Buddha’s path and pack it in. We need to be patient and keep with the practice, reestablishing our wholesome intentions and our capacity for experiencing a present-moment awareness.