This is just one example of how our minds run away with us, as we toggle from future to past and past to future. Meanwhile, we are not experiencing the fullness of our present moment, which is all we really have. The past is gone. The present hasn’t happened yet. All we truly have is the now. And if we don’t allow ourselves to experience and pay attention to the now, in all its peace and completeness, we will be dragged around by our minds into a state of anxiety, fear, regret, despair, and unease.
And this is just the start of the day. Instead of waking up and looking at the new dawn, feeling the joy of being alive, feeling appreciation for life and love, being fascinated with how perfect it all is, we need to fix things. We need to get on with the next project, we are bored, restless, or reluctant even to wake up as we face the drudgery and difficulties ahead.
Thich Nhat Hanh steers us away from this unhappy way of living. He says:
“If while washing dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not “washing the dishes to wash the dishes.” What’s more, we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes. In fact we are completely incapable of realizing the miracle of life while standing at the sink. If we can’t wash the dishes, the chances are we won’t be able to drink our tea either. While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands. Thus we are sucked away into the future—and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life.”
We are not really living when we are rushing off to the next thing and seeing the present moment as an encumbrance that we need to get through somehow. The present moment becomes something we must survive so we can get to the next thing that we must survive. It is a pointless and completely miserable way to live: Let’s get on with it so we can rush to the next thing we need to get on with. Instead, Thich Nhat Hanh says:
“When you walk, arrive with every step. That is walking meditation. There’s nothing else to it.”
Now we are at one with our body and its movement, each step, the earth, and the freedom of present moment awareness. We are not dragged down by the sorrows of the past or the fears about the future. We are mindfully walking, one step at a time, and being happy with that one step. Focussing our attention on that one step. In that mindful step is the key to our freedom from the churning of the mind. There is no place to go. We have already arrived.