When undertaking the life of a monastic, we have a direction and a goal in mind. There’s something we’re aiming for, and it’s important to reflect on that with some frequency. From time to time we can ask ourselves, What’s the direction of my life? What’s the goal of my life?
We can also reflect on where this goal is located. With understanding we can see that it is located in the present moment. It’s right now. Many of us live our lives thinking about the future most of the time. As we get older, we may think more and more about the past. But either way, we’re not in the present moment.
This is particularly apparent in our meditation, where the work is to bring our minds into the present and cut through the delusions we create around notions of time. The entire universe we attach to—what we like, dislike, dread, hate, fear, love—is a creation of our minds. We’ve created it in the present moment. Then we create this illusion of time and a whole universe of saṃsāra, which we feel trapped in. But the whole creation of time is something we do now, in the present moment.
Bringing the mind to the present moment is hard work, because, over the years, we have pursued the habit of creating time so that now this habit has great momentum and it keeps pushing us into the past and future. As a result, we could say, it takes a real balancing act to overcome that momentum—to bring ourselves back to a place that is centered and balanced in the present moment. Doing this is a matter of balance rather than effort.
When we see clearly, we know that there’s only the present moment. That’s all there has ever been. It takes commitment and determination to see this and take it seriously. There is no worldly benefit to be gained from returning to the present. No one else knows if we are in the present moment or not. No one will praise us for it, and we won’t get any money for it—we don’t get anything worldly out of it at all. But by continuing to return the mind to the present moment, we can eliminate having to bear the weight of the whole saṃsāric universe on our shoulders. No wonder coming back to the present is such a relief.
This reflection by Ajahn Yatiko is from the book, Beginning Our Day, Volume1, pp. 63-64.