It is a well-known teaching of Zen Buddhism that one should strive to maintain one's consciousness in the here and now. Doing that certainly improves your awareness and your reaction time. But how do you be here, now, with love--especially when the world around you has every appearance of going to hell in a handbasket? The answer is to first be everywhere, always. Then you'll be free to be here, now--with love.
Imagine a lushious red apple. Beautiful, isn't it? Lushious and lovely. But now, take a seed from that apple. Then:
Now let's examine our emotional reactions at each stage of the process:
If you look at each stage by itself, isolated from all of the others, there isn't much to love. But when you connect the stages together and visualize the entire process, then you can view each stage with love and understanding, and devote the same care and attention to that process as the farmer, for that is what the farmer does.
The trick is look at the world in the same way. To do that, start by examining yourself.
How has your life been going? Have been growing and gaining wisdom? Even your worst experiences taught you something, didn't they? Looking back over your life, you've been getting smarter, not dumber. If you once had a spiritual connection and have lost it, you ache for it. If you've never had one, you'd like to experience it, even if you're afraid to wish for it for fear it's not real. And if you currently have a spiritual connection, you know how wonderful it is and how much you cherish it.
So, when you look back over your life, what do see? You see the seed becoming the apple, don't you? In other words, you see an unfolding process that leads to beautiful fruits.
My martial arts teacher, great grandmaster Tae Yun Kim always taught us: "Be the farmer in your life". What makes a farmer, if not their awareness of the entire, unfolding process that leads to a tree?
The farmer cares for the seed, preserving it until it is time to plant. The farmer plants the seed, waters the ground, and clears the weeds. But in doing these things, the farmer knows he is doing all he can to help the process. He is not making the apple tree grow. He has absolute confidence that, in effect, the apple tree wants to grow, and the apple is going to emerge. That's just the way things work.
In the same way that your life has been about growth and becoming, so too is every life on the planet, everywhere it exists. People may get wrong ideas and do the the wrong things for a very long time. But their own unhappiness makes them wish for a better way. (As one sage put it, happiness is the key. At the very least, it tells you whether you're on the right track.)
When you're here, now you see a moment in time. You see your own failings, and you see the failings of others. But if you expand your awareness to encompass all time--to imagine the process and see the end result--you can see the strong, arrogant person becoming old and frail, and learning humility in the process. You can see the weak, timid person begin to achieve success in their life and develop self-confidence. You can see the drunken cynic stumbling across a spiritual connection, hanging on to it for dear life, and then throwing the lifeline they found to everyone they meet.
Now expand that vision to encompass every person on the planet, no matter where they are. In other words, be everywhere, always. Don't just see what people are doing now, see where they're going in their lives. When you see your own life, you know that the trend is towards becoming smarter, more spiritual, more connected--no matter where you were at any given moment in your life. When you see that same process unfolding in every persion you meet, and realize that it is true for everyone on the planet, then you can begin to follow the advice of the Tibetan Buddhist:
See every sight as nirvana, hear every sound as mantra, see every being as Buddha.
In western terms, everything you see is heaven, every sound you hear is a meditative sound (so the rythmic thumping of the pile driver becomes the sound of the meditation drum), and every person is enlightened. Of course, if you look at what the person is doing today, you may not think so. But when you expand your awareness to see the entire unfolding process in your minds eye, and use your own experience as a guide, you know it to be true. And then you can be in here, now, in the present time, and have your heart filled with love.
Note for Gardeners:
In reality, a new apple tree is created by taking a cutting and planting it, rather than by planting a seed. The reason is that when the flower is pollinated, the pollen could come from almost anywhere. The DNA of the pollen mixes with the DNA of the flower to create the new seed. And that seed may well produce hard, bitter fruits, depending on where the pollen came from. But the apple that forms around the seed is a product of the tree's DNA. So we reproduce the tree by taking a cutting--slicing off part of a branch and grafting it to a root stock that was grown from a seed. The fruits that emerge from that graft are then identical to the originals. So that's the way things really work. It is the very same process: a quest for continual improvement. But the story is a lot more complex!
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