April 17, 2012 § 3 Comments
Last year I purchased a balance board. When I first began using it, I had great difficulty staying up on the board. In time of course I got better and was able to maintain my balance for extended periods. It takes energy and physical effort to stay up. The constant small muscle twitches and movements take their toll. But the mental fatigue is the biggest problem. When I concentrate consciously on the activity, I begin to tire and before too long, I step off the board. But when I am not thinking about the activity, when I am just on the board, I feel as though it is all effortless. I feel as though I could stay on the board forever.
Something like that applies to the practice of being in the present moment. When you consciously try to stay in the present moment, you will be able to stay in that posture for only a short while before the sense of mental fatigue sends you “off the board.” But when you are present more naturally, without the conscious sense of effort and will, you feel no fatigue, no resistance. Thus the challenge is not in the maintenance of your conscious effort, the challenge instead is in finding and sustaining the absence of conscious effort, in sustaining the natural posture of presentness or balance.
This isn’t to say that we must find a way to stay always in that kind of natural centeredness. Who can really do that? Zen monks spend years in the pursuit of this way of being and still falter. The idea is that we should strive for that natural, centered way of being, knowing that, as with the balance board, we will fall off. But each moment that we are just in balance, just present and centered, will bring us a strength and peace that is beyond words.