A reader responding to the Zen priest Norman Fischer’s post, “For the Time Being,” writes: Please, Mr Fischer... How do we/you go about resolving living in the moment with active engagement in the world?... If the awareness — the “embracing of the moment” — is available to everyone, we need more about how this can happen among the relentless demands of daily life.
Norman Fischer replies:
Well, very briefly, there is no contradiction between living in the world as it is and “embracing the moment.” Though a retreat may be helpful training, it is just that. Everything takes place in a moment of time — conflict, annoyance, love, peacefulness, anxiety. A moment of time is the only place we are alive, every day, all day long. We want to live all of human life, the good and the bad, but be able to be there for it, rather than try, unsuccessfully, to run away. Being there is more satisfying, more fun, and more effective. So I work with (for instance) caregivers for the dying, using mindfulness and presence to be there with patients and families, with grief and joy. I use it with conflict resolution professionals to help them be more clearly present with their own emotions, so they can help their embattled clients better. How do you do this? It would be great if I could write a post on The New York Times Web site that would explain it step by step, and that was all there was to it. Great, but too simple, of course. Yes, there are ways and techniques to employ, but the main thing is practice, repetition, reflection, effort, suffering, the usual. Eventually you are able to see that it does work. And you are continually challenged. You keep on practicing, keep on learning. It’s a process, and a commitment you are happy to make because you like it, and it works. Life gets better and more interesting. At least this is what I have seen for myself and in thousands of others. Maybe it is not everyone’s cup of tea.