On the Challenges of Staying


(STAYING Present) It's a dog's life. (Image sourced from Tara Brach's Facebook page.)

(STAYING Present) It’s a dog’s life. (Image sourced from Tara Brach’s Facebook page.)

This has been my practice this entire week: learning to stay. Learning to stay in my body, learning to stay with the breath, learning to be with raw sensations and emotions, learning not to flee into “false refuges” as Tara Brach puts it so aptly.

Few things have proven as astoundingly difficult. For all that I’ve led a remarkably blessed existence, I find living in the present almost intolerable. Vast stretches of my life have been spent in the mental sanctuaries of past and future (mostly the future), my immediate experience of reality filtered out by a constant haze of reveries and recollections, ambitions and aspirations.

Now, I’m trying to just stay here. And Lawdy, it be haaard.

(I remember my first few zazens or Zen seated meditations. C.-sensei had instructed us to count each breath, but to only count until ten. Once we had reached ten, we were to return to one. I could almost never get past two. That’s how challenging it was—and still is!— for me to stay present in the absence of any goal-oriented action.)

So this is me staying in my body, staying with my breath, being with the raw sensations and emotions of unremitting failure and frustration, learning not to flee into false—yet oh so consoling! (even if for just a time)—refuges.

Let me just stay until ten.

Just ten.

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