Recently I heard an advert that started with the words "in these unpredictable times." Now we are all used to advertising platitudes at the moment, but that really stuck out for me. It begged the question "when were things ever predictable?"
Many years ago as a young worker I went to my boss and told him that we wouldn't be able to do something "for the foreseeable future." He just smiled at me wryly and replied "and how long is that?"
The truth is that we have this delusion that we know what is going to, or what should, happen. We hold on to a model of the world where things don't change, where institutions, systems and cultures stay the same. In short, we pretend that we know what will happen next.
The current pandemic has shaken a lot of people because it has exposed this delusion. Even so, people are treating it like a blip, like things will get back to normal soon, that we will get back to a place where times are predictable. Of course, times have never been predictable, and they won't magically become so in the future.
You shouldn't chase after the past
or place expectations on the future.
What is past
is left behind.
is as yet unreached.
Whatever quality is present
you clearly see right there,
Not taken in,
that's how you develop the heart.
what should be done today,
for — who knows? — tomorrow
There is no bargaining
with Mortality & his mighty horde.
Whoever lives thus ardently,
both day & night,
has truly had an auspicious day:
so says the Peaceful Sage.
There is no other time to live in but right now. So if we can't live in the future, and we shouldn't live in the past, what should we do?
We often think about 'being in the present' in terms of some blissful meditation state. Sequestered in a quiet room away from distractions, sitting alone. That of course is part of it, but by no means all. Being present means showing up at all times. Not in some imagined future meditation session, but right now. Choosing to show up can be the hardest part of all in our practice and for most of us something we need to cultivate.
So, in these unpredictable times, recognize that all times are unpredictable. Show up and clearly see whatever quality is present, ardently doing whatever should be done today.
I have linked below a fully guided meditation on 'Showing Up.' A few of us have committed to hit 'play' together at 7pm PT on Sunday 12th July. You are welcome to join us if you wish or listen on your own at any time. Please feel free to forward this to anyone you wish.
"Bhaddekaratta Sutta: An Auspicious Day" (MN 131), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (BCBS Edition), 30 November 2013.
Photo by Adolfo Félix on Unsplash