Dharma Topic: Living in the Present

Dharma Topic: Living in the Present

Discussion date: Thu, May 25, 2006 at our weekly Thursday evening practice

Dear Still Water Friends,

This Thursday evening, after our meditation period, we willpractice together the “Living in the Present” Touching of the Earth.This Touching is a wonderful reminder that the heart of our practice isbeing awake and aware in the present moment. 

There are many wonderful aspects of the practice to explore,many books to read and talks to listen to. However, if we don’t developour capacity to embrace the present moment, it is like taking a showerwith a raincoat on: the words and gestures cannot really touch us,cannot really cleanse us.

For most of us, this is a lesson we learn not just once, butmany, many, times. It is like learning to trust a friend. We sharea vulnerability, and if we feel we are deeply heard, the strength ofthe relationship grows. Each time we open to the present moment andfeel nourished and supported by it, our trust grows. Then little effortis needed – we are naturally drawn to the present moment just like weare drawn to spending time with a good friend.

You are invited to join us this Thursday for our meditation period andthe Touching of the Earth practice. We will begin our discussion withthe questions: What new ways to touch the present moment have Ilearned? How have they changed me?

I hope you can join us. A copy of the “Living in the Present” Touching of the Earth is below.

Warm wishes,

Mitchell Ratner
Senior Teacher

Living in the Present by Thich Nhat Hanh

Dear Buddha, I touch the Earth to be deeply in touch with you and with the Pure Land of the present moment. 


DearBuddha, I recognize my deep habit energy of forgetfulness. I oftenallow my mind to think about the past, so that I drown in sorrow andregret. This has caused me to lose so many opportunities to be in touchwith the wonderful things of life present only in this moment. I knowthere are many of us whose past has become our prison. Our time isspent complaining or regretting what we have lost. This robs us of theopportunity to be in touch with the refreshing, beautiful, andwonderful things that could nourish and transform us in the presentmoment. We are not able to be in touch with the blue sky, the whiteclouds, the green willow, the yellow flowers, the sound of the wind inthe pine trees, the sound of the running brook, the sound of thesinging birds, and the sound of the laughing children in the earlymorning sunlight. We are also not able to be in touch with thewonderful things in our own selves.

We are unable to see that ourtwo eyes are two precious jewels. When we open our eyes we can be intouch with the world of ten thousand different colors and forms. We donot recognize that our two ears are two wonderful sense organs. If wewere to listen attentively with these two ears, we would hear the softrustling of the wind in the branches of the pine, the twittering of thegolden oriole or the sound of the rising tide as it plays itscompelling music on the seashore in the early morning. Our hearts,lungs, brains, as well as our capacity to feel, to think and observeare also wonders of life. The glass of clear water or golden orangejuice in our hands is also a wonder of life. In spite of this I amoften unable to be in touch with the way life is manifesting in thepresent moment, because I do not practice mindful breathing and mindfulwalking to return to the present moment.

Dear Buddha, please be mywitness. I promise I shall practice to realize the teachings you havegiven us. I know that the Pure Land is not an illusory promise for thefuture. The Pure Land is available to me now, wonderful in all aspects.The path of red earth with its border of green grass is the Pure Land.The small golden and violet flowers are also the Pure Land. Thebabbling brook with small, shiny rocks lying in its bed is also thePure Land. Our Pure Land is not only the fragrant lotuses and bunchesof chrysanthemums, but is also the mud which nourishes the roots of thelotus and the manure which nourishes the chrysanthemums.

The PureLand has the outer appearance of birth and death, but looking deeply Isee that birth and death are interdependent. One is not possiblewithout the other. If I look even more deeply, I will see that there isno birth and no death; there is only manifestation. I do not have towait for this body to disintegrate in order to step into the Pure Landof the Buddha. By the way I look, walk, and breathe I can produce theenergies of mindfulness and concentration, allowing me to enter thePure Land and to experience all the miracles of life found right in thehere and now.


Adapted from Thich Nhat Hanh, Touching the Earth:Intimate Conversations with the Buddha (Berkeley, California: ParallaxPress, 2004)

Discussion Date: Thu, May 25, 2006