What you have is now

- through Francois Leclercq

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In difficult times, it is so easy to travel through time. I'm not talking about an actual time machine; I mean with your mind. When you sit with loss and grief, you may wish you were somewhere else. Because here, now, it's painful. And there have been times in the past that weren't painful. And you believe that at some point it won't hurt anymore. And so you travel through time: you spend your time revisiting happy memories; or you dream of a future filled with love and laughter. Maybe your future will be filled with love and laughter, but how do you get there? If you don't live in the present moment, you can't properly recognize your difficult feelings. Although the future is not guaranteed, if it does come, it will not be happy if you have not managed your pain. If you spend the day in the right way, you can have an auspicious day, as described by the Buddha in the Bhaddekaratta Sutta (MN 131):

We must not chase the past.
or place expectations on the future.
What happened?
is left behind.

The future is not yet reached.
Whatever quality is present.
you see clearly there,
just there.

Not taken into account,
this is how we develop the heart.

Do ardently
what should we do today,
for – who knows? - tomorrow
the death.

There is no negotiation
with Mortality and its powerful horde.

He who lives thus ardently,
Day and night,
really had an auspicious day:
thus says the Peaceful Sage.

As you reflect on this passage, you are reminded that dwelling on the past or fixating on the future only leads to suffering. Instead, you can focus on the present moment and embrace the practice of letting go. Feel the rise and fall of difficult emotions. There is nothing in the past for you. You do not need to embark on a pursuit of the past, as the Buddha describes below:

And how, monks, can we chase the past? We get carried away by the joy of “In the past, I had such a shape (body)”. . . 'In the past, I had this feeling'. . . 'In the past, I had such a perception'. . . 'In the past, I had such fabrication of thoughts. . . 'In the past, I had such awareness. This is called chasing the past.

Likewise, you don't need to place expectations about the future like these:

And how can you place your expectations on the future? We get carried away by the joy of “In the future, I will be able to have such a shape (body)”. . . 'In the future, I might have this feeling'. . . 'In the future, I might have such a perception.' . . 'In the future, I might have such fabrication of thoughts. . . 'In the future, I may have such awareness. This is called placing expectations on the future.

Anticipating the future too much and becoming attached to specific outcomes contribute to your suffering. If you want to envision a future without suffering, then look to today. And this too must be handled in the right way. The sutta also explains what “not considered” means. Having this auspicious day does not only mean not chasing the past or the future, it is also about having a good mindset towards the present. The Buddha describes the one who is not fooled:

And how can we not get caught up in the present qualities? There is the case where a disciple of the noble beings who has seen the noble beings, is versed in the teachings of the noble beings, is well trained in the teachings of the noble beings, does not see the form as self, or the self as possessing a form, or form as in itself, or self as in form.

It's not just about being in the moment with your feelings. I rely on this idea to make a certain point. In times of difficulty and loss, look neither backward nor forward. It's tempting to want to get away from this painful moment. You have to be in the moment in the right way. Rely on the Dhamma and work with the understanding that these feelings are not you. You will face your past and you will face your future. But don't waste what you have – and what you have is now. Right now, right in front of you, is your practice. And, in the general spirit of the Death Dhamma, “Who knows, maybe tomorrow death will come.” »

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Francois Leclercq

François Leclercq is the founder of Buddhist News, a website which aims to disseminate information and practical advice on Buddhism and spirituality. François Leclercq was born and raised in Paris. He studied Buddhism at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where he graduated in social sciences and psychology. After graduating, he devoted himself to his passion for Buddhism and traveled the world to study and learn about different practices. He notably visited Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and China.

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