Opening Fully to the Present Moment – It’s the Path and It’s the Goal

I’ve practised mindfulness for many years, and more and more I see that the core of it all is opening fully to the present moment. It’s not just the core, it’s the path and it’s the goal. 

It’s deceptively simple. Whatever is going on inside you, allow it to move through you without resistance:

  • Allow the body to relax
  • Drop any mental resistance (wanting, not wanting, judging, etc.)
  • Become aware of your strong intention to fully experience the moment
  • Open to it so unreservedly it touches the depths of your being. 
    • I often say to myself “Yes!” or “Open”

If you can do this, the inevitable result is to feel alive. Wonderfully alive. It doesn’t matter if there is joy or sadness. It doesn’t matter if it’s comfortable or uncomfortable. When you live the moment deeply, it is an enriching experience. 

None of this means you don’t take care of your external life. Rather, you are better able to do that from a place of balance and perspective, as well as from a heart that is open.

I’m told that Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) believes the most important of the 14 Mindfulness Trainings is Dwelling Happily in the Present Moment:

Aware that life is available only in the present moment, we are committed to training ourselves to live deeply each moment of daily life. We will try not to lose ourselves in dispersion or be carried away by regrets about the past, worries about the future, or craving, anger, or jealousy in the present. We will practice mindful breathing to be aware of what is happening in the here and the now. We are determined to learn the art of mindful living by touching the wondrous, refreshing, and healing elements that are inside and around us, in all situations. In this way, we will be able to cultivate seeds of joy, peace, love, and understanding in ourselves, thus facilitating the work of transformation and healing in our consciousness. We are aware that real happiness depends primarily on our mental attitude and not on external conditions, and that we can live happily in the present moment simply by remembering that we already have more than enough conditions to be happy. 

As Thay says, “real happiness depends primarily on our mental attitude and not on external conditions.” This is the part that takes practice. Remembering that no matter what is going on, no matter how uncomfortable or unwanted, you can say “yes” to it. You can open to it and let it touch you deeply, without any internal resistance. 

This takes a very strong intention, strong motivation. Can you stay open when things go wrong? When your boss criticizes your work? When you miss the bus? When it’s too hot or too cold or raining?

When you open to the moment, not only do you enhance the experience. You also transform your internal blockages, all the stored past impressions that get triggered and that cover up your true nature, which is joy, love, peace and enthusiasm. 

Opening to the present moment has been my main practice for several years now, and I’ve seen a big impact. Many things that used to bother me no longer do, and there’s more joy, peace and a sense that I can handle anything that comes my way, be it covid, boredom, loss or just facing the unwanted. 

Best of all, enlightenment is not some distant goal. It is right here, right now. As Thay says, “This is it.” 


How to fully experience the moment

  1. Cultivate motivation to fully experience the moment
    • Learn how fully experiencing the moment increases deep happiness and reduces suffering
    • Read / watch teachings
    • Gatha / mantra practice
    • Bells of mindfulness
    • Journal
  2. Notice what is happening in this moment
    • Inner experience – body, feelings, thoughts
    • Outer experience – sight, sound, taste, smell, touch
  3. Recognize any resistance
    • Holding or tension in the body
    • Mental resistance – wanting, not wanting, judging
  4. Open / Let go of resistance
    • Gesture of opening
      • Relax the body
      • Let go of mental resistance
      • Say to yourself – YES, Open, Experience, etc
    • Spaciousness
      • Notice who or what is aware
      • Expand your attentional focus
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