The Transformative Power of the Present Moment

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Silver Spring, Maryland, Community Online on Thursday Evening
August 19, 2021, 7:00 to 8:45 pm
Open to all Online on Friday Evening
August 20, 2021, 7:00 to 8:45 pm

Dear Still Water Friends

When I first saw Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh) teach at a 1990 conference in Crystal City, Virginia, I was drawn to him by the power of his presence. He was sitting cross-legged on a small raised platform. He spoke softly and slowly. The entire 2000-person audience was captivated. No one spoke, no one even coughed, for almost two hours.

The heart of his message was that we can train ourselves to be more attuned to the present moment, to live more of our lives in the here and now. When we are more present, we are able to bring peace and joy to ourselves, the people around us, and the world.

What Thay taught was simple … and not at all easy. So many things pull us away, including our conditioning, our anxiety, and the world around us. Every time I was with Thay after that first time, no matter what he was teaching or doing, I received a supportive energetic message from him: “You can do this, it is not that hard. Begin with one breath, one step, one action, in awareness. Then do another.”

In 2014, when Thay was eighty-eight years old, he experienced a severe brain hemorrhage and was hospitalized in France. He later also received more rehabilitation treatment in San Francisco, although he was unable to regain his speech or his ability to walk unaided. In 2016 Thay returned to Plum Village, France, then moved to Plum Village, Thailand, and in 2018, he returned to Vietnam. His desire was to live his remaining days at Tu Hieu temple in Hue, his spiritual home where he began his monastic training when he was sixteen.

I was fortunate to spend a little bit of time with him in 2016, when he was in San Francisco, and in 2019, at Tu Hieu temple. Despite his advanced age and multiple health challenges, he was still remarkably present. His eyes were alive and even twinkling. He made gestures of greeting with his hand. He was offering me yet another message of encouragement.

This Thursday and Friday evening, after our meditation period, we will watch together a short video of Thay offering his core message on July 26, 2014, during the Summer retreat at Plum Village. In the video, Thay reminds us:
We have an appointment with life. And that appointment takes place in the here and the now, in the present moment. If we miss the present moment, we miss our appointment with life, which is very serious.

But as we continue to live without mindfulness, we always miss the present moment. The practice of mindful walking can be very helpful. If we know how to walk, then every step can bring us home to the here and the now.

We can combine our steps with our in-breaths and out-breaths. If you know how to combine the breathing and the walking together, and breathe in mindfulness and walk in mindfulness, then every step can bring you home to the here and the now so that we can live our life. Otherwise we waste our life.

We have been living in forgetfulness many, many years. Forgetfulness is the opposite of mindfulness. mindfulness is to remember that life is a wonder, we are there, and we should live our life deeply. When you practice walking with a group of people, we can walk normally — not too quick, not too slow. And breathing in, we might take two steps or three steps. And every step should bring us home to the here and the now.

You may use words to remind you of doing so: “I have arrived, I have arrived, I have arrived.” “I have arrived” is not a thought. You are not thinking. “I have arrived” is a means, a kind of device to help you to do what you want to do. “I have arrived” means I have arrived in the here and the now where life is available.

The address of life is here and now. And you will find out that the address of the Kingdom of God is also here and now. That is what I have found.

During our Dharma sharing we will begin with these questions:

    • What do you experience when you are more fully present in the here and now?
    • What are the conditions and circumstances that support, enable, or assist you in living more fully in the present moment?</
    • What are the conditions and circumstances that make it more difficult or challenging to be more fully present?

You are invited to join us.

The short video we will watch is entitled Remembering the Appointment with Life . It is from the Dharma talk Freedom from Being Caught in the Past or the Future.

Many blessings,

Mitchell Ratner

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