From The Work of This Moment

· Articles & Essays · ,

by Toni Packer

Making resolutions becomes a comforting
reassurance that we will accomplish in the future
what we are not ready to do right now.
Postponement is the perpetuation of inattention.

When a dish comes tumbling down from a shelf and one sees it happen, the hand immediately stretches out and catches it. Falling, seeing, and catching are one complete action.

If the mind is caught up in dreams, the falling dish may be seen too late or not at all, and before the hand reaches it, it has already crashed to pieces. Saddened and annoyed over the loss and over our own negligence, we may resolve to become more attentive in the future.

We make promises, resolutions, and vows because we have been brought up to believe that this will help somehow. We believe that if we commit ourselves through words, we are more likely to do what we think we ought to do, or become what we want to become in the future.

But is this really so?

In the case of the falling dish, is it saved because we have previously resolved to become attentive? Or does awareness function freely, actively, and intelligently when the mind is unpreoccupied?

 

In Resolving To Become More attentive, or to reach a state of complete awareness, an ideal goal is established in the mind. A division in time occurs: One’s actual present negligence is separated from the idea of future attentiveness. Thinking of a future goal is an escape from our present discomfort and disease that arise from inattention. We much prefer to think about developing into a better person and following a method to get there than to face the pain and root cause of our present insufficiency. Making resolutions becomes a comforting reassurance that we will accomplish in the future what we are not ready to do right now. Postponement is the perpetuation of inattention.

Another division occurs between myself as a judge and the action that “I” condemn. “I” condemn “my” negligence as though “I” and the “negligence” were two separate things. Are they really?

Can one carefully examine all this? Not just take someone’s word for it nor immediately react against the words. When there is a deep feeling of responsibility for everything we do or don’t do from moment to moment, attention and questioning come naturally.

If there is a great urgency to find out some- thing, the energy is there to attend. Faced with a critical emergency, we usually attend and act with our total being. At the instant of immediate danger, past resolutions and future goals are completely irrelevant. There is only the seeing and acting appropriately, without choice.

Why do we go back to sleep once the emergency is over, satisfied with the vow to wake up some time in the future? Why don’t we respond immediately to the ever-present danger of inattention? Do we see it?

Once the dish is shattered, can one see the whole situation inside and out as it is, without the excuses, the blame, the regrets, or the resolutions taking over the mind?

And then sweep up the pieces and discard them.


Toni Packer (1927-2013) was a teacher of “meditative inquiry” and the founder of Springwater Center in western New York after moving away from the formal practices of Zen Buddhism.

From The Work of This Moment. Copyright ©1990 by Toni Packer. Used by permission of Shambhala Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

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