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At the beginning of a new year it’s always a good idea to reflect on any goals you may have set for 2012 and whether you met them or fell short. However it’s extremely easy, perhaps even tempting, to linger in the past. Analysing every failure in exquisite detail or resting on your successes. At this time it is even more important to remember to live in the here and now; the present. The past is done and the future is anything but certain.
It’s at times like these that i recall a old Taoist fable that puts time in prospective for me:
One day a monk was walking through a forest, deep in thought. When suddenly a tiger jumped from the forest, a very big tiger.
Frightened, the monk ran and ran. With the tiger hot on his heels, the end of the forest soon appeared and the monk tumbled down a cliff. As he rolled down, he caught hold of a blackberry bush.
The thorns of the bush dug into his hand and blood was soon trickling down his wrist. Just as he was about to drop down to the bottom of the cliff, a second tiger appeared below, lying in wait.
He did not know what to do. In this moment of turmoil, he looked across and saw the bush had a lone berry on it. The monk reached across and plucked the berry from the bush and ate it. It was the best berry he ever ate.
The meaning of the table is this;
The first tiger he was running from was his past. The second tiger, at the bottom of the cliff, was the future. And the blackberry bush was the present. Yes, sometimes it stings, but it can also bear the greatest fruit. The Taoists hold the belief of living in the here and now. Move yourself away from the past and the future and instead live in the present.
“If you worry about what might be, and wonder what might have been, you will ignore what is.” -Unknown
1) Live in the present. It sounds easy, right? Yet to do it properly is, to the Taoist Monks, one of the hardest challenges for a human. Don’t mourn for the past or worry for the future.
2) Reflecting and reminiscing can be good, but don’t over indulge. Reviewing the past, especially past goals, successes and favourite moments, is a very human activity. But don’t let it take over your life, the past is gone, focus on what you can do now.
3) Taoist fables are invaluable. They have been passed down from generation to generation for thousands of years. Each time they have been told, they were improved upon until they were handed down to us in their polished final version. There are amazing lessons in every single one that are still as valuable today as they were thousands of years ago.
4) Practice mindfulness. Be aware of your actions. Whether we are washing dishes or tying our shoes, our mind is focused on whatever we are doing. We are not thinking about the bills that we have to pay, or the phone call we need to make when we get to the office. We are simply living in the moment. By doing this simple thing you will get much more enjoyment out of everything you do.
Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment–and Your Life
The Eight Immortals of Taoism: Legends and Fables of Popular Taoism (Meridian)