Friday, February 7, 2014

Past, Present, Future, and Mindfulness

Re-reading Thanissaro Bhikkhu's excellent book, The Wings of Awakening,  I stopped at page ten. There, the teacher gives a clear expose of this/that conditionality, and of how it gets played out moment to moment in our lives. This is a notion well-worth pondering and understanding, as it is the glue that links together past thoughts (and actions) with our present moment experience and also future states. Sitting still now, I not only experience what is happening in the moment, but also the consequences from past thoughts, actions, words that keep on reverberating in my mind, in often times mysterious ways. This is why despite all our intentions to meditate and experience peace, we often find our mind hindered by automatic thoughts related to the past.

How we relate to the present moment may, if it creates strong enough of an impression, impact our future. That impact may come in the form of lingering thoughts or emotions, or outside consequences from our environment. It can go both ways, positively or negatively, depending on the nature of our meeting with the moment. We also have some (limited) power regarding how we mediate the outcome of past experiences in the present moment. This in a nutshell, is my take away from Thanissaro Bhikkhu's explanation.

Of course, what is done is done, and the only freedom we have regarding our past deeds, is in how we meet their outcome, both inner and outer. Do we linger in guilt and self-hate? Or do we use our past unskillfulness as a mean to feeling more compassion towards others, and even more importantly ourselves? Do we use our mistakes as a reminder to practice mindfulness, which we know is the best safeguard against such unfortunate events? Do we surrender to the reality of our very human fallibility? Can we relax around gnawing thoughts, and embrace them with all the loving kindness we can find in our heart?

Screwing up is acceptable as long as we learn from it . . . How do you learn from the past?

I inherit the nature of my actions in body, speech and mind. 
My actions are the ground on which I stand. 
(Buddha's Fourth Remembrance)


  1. We resonate, with every thoughts, actions, I feel that way too. And I still don't know where the learning takes place, other than through total surrender, by giving up any hope of amassing self knowledge as well.

  2. It's usually fairly easy to let go of guilt and recriminations about mistakes. Letting go of pride from successes and avoiding complacency is a bit tougher, but also important :)