Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Down the Drain

This morning I was taking a shower. But I wasn't in the shower. I was sitting in a house a few miles from here drinking tea and having a conversation with a friend. My friend said something about me that I felt was pretty judgmental and I was feeling quite irritated about it. The next thing I knew, though, I was back in the shower having a conversation with myself. I was expressing my irritation, to myself, about this person's personality and how it bent their view of me and my actions. Then a few moments later I found myself standing in the shower feeling the streams of water pressing against my skin, noticing the warmth of the water and the slippery feel of the shampoo as I rubbed it into my hair.

It struck me that this is how I spend a lot of my life. My attention is focused on a memory or on something I expect to happen. I argue with this memory and defend myself. Or I make plans for how to deal with a situation, either to get it to turn out the way I want or to keep it from turning out as I fear it will. Then I review the defense or plan again and again to try to make sure I've got it right. While I'm caught up in this the situations seem real and I react to them emotionally. But when I look at them later, at the best of times only a moment or two later, there is the recognition that the past and future are simply happening in the mind, in imagination. No matter how hard I try I can't locate past or future anywhere else. The events that I now remember did once occur but at that time they were now, not past. Now all they are is memories, thoughts in the mind. The events that I anticipate may indeed occur, but if they do it will be in the now. Until that happens they are only thoughts in the mind. So I spend much of my life caught up in a world that I imagine, with one set of thoughts countering another, all in the mind.

When I recognize that these memories or plans and my reactions to them are only thoughts, only in imagination, mind and body relax. Thoughts fall away as though they are washing down the drain. The mind becomes more and more quiet. What is left is simple awareness. Simple awareness of thoughts arising and passing away. Simple awareness of the sensory experience of this moment. The pressure of water falling against the skin. The sound of water striking the shower walls and floor. What is left is living in the now, this moment. This moment. This moment… Until I forget and fall into past and future once again.

Photo: 3035887375 on Flickr, Shower, by gfpeck, Creative Common License: Attribution No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic