The Present Is Free from Fear
When we are not fully present, we are not really living. We’re not really there, either for our loved ones or for ourselves. If we’re not there, then where are we? We are running, running, running, even during our sleep. We run because we’re trying to escape from our fear.
We cannot enjoy life if we spend our time and energy worrying about what happened yesterday and what will happen tomorrow. If we’re afraid all the time, we miss out on the wonderful fact that we’re alive and can be happy right now. In everyday life, we tend to believe that happiness is only possible in the future. We’re always looking for the “right” conditions that we don’t yet have to make us happy. We ignore what is happening right in front of us. We look for something that will make us feel more solid, more safe, more secure. But we’re afraid all the time of what the future will bring—afraid we’ll lose our jobs, our possessions, the people around us whom we love. So we wait and hope for that magical moment—always sometime in the future—when everything will be as we want it to be. We forget that life is available only in the present moment. The Buddha said, “It is possible to live happily in the present moment. It is the only moment we have.”
The Bible tells the story of a farmer who discovered a treasure buried on his land. When he went back home, he gave up all the rest of his land and everything else he owned. He kept only that one small piece of land that contained the treasure. That treasure is the kingdom of God. We know that we should look for the kingdom of God in the present moment, because the present moment is the only moment that is. The past is gone, and the future is not yet here. So the place where you should look for the kingdom of God or the Pure Land of the Buddha, the place where you should look for your happiness, your peace, and your fulfillment, has to be in the present moment. It’s so simple and clear. But since we have the tendency to slide back into the past or to run into the future, we have to recognize that habit and learn how to be free from it to really establish ourselves in the present moment.
When the Buddha gave a talk to a large gathering of businessmen, the core of his message to them was, “It is possible to live happily right in the present moment.” The Buddha saw that most of the businessmen were very concerned about their future success and weren’t capable of enjoying the present moment. They didn’t have time for themselves or their families; they didn’t have time to love and make the people around them happy. They were continually being sucked into the future.
The Pure Land is in the present moment. The Pure Land is now or never. The same is true with the kingdom of God: it’s either now or never. The kingdom of God is not just a lovely idea. It is a reality. When you do mindful breathing and walking, you go home to the present moment, and you touch the many wonders of life in you and around you; and all of that belongs to the kingdom of God. If you have found the kingdom of God, you no longer need to run after fame and riches and sensual pleasures.
When we go home to the present moment, we understand there are so many conditions of happiness that we don’t need to go running after yet another one. We already have enough conditions to be happy. Happiness is entirely possible right in the here and now.
The Buddha’s teaching about living happily in the present moment is a very pleasant one. We can be happy right now. The practice is also very pleasant. When we climb the hill together, we don’t need to make an effort; we enjoy every step. Walking like that, if we are free of the past, free of the future, we can touch the kingdom of God, the Pure Land of the Buddha, with every step.
An Excerpt from Fear By Thich Nhat Hanh.