If you are old (and that is pretty old) enough to remember playing your favorite song on a record player you can surly relate to this happening. For those of you that don’t know, back then you could buy just your favorite song, which was on a 45 rpm (revolutions per minute) record, and it would include one more song on the b-side or a whole collection of songs on a LP (Long Play) which ran at the speed of 33 1/3 rpm. What would enviably happen when switching back and forth between 45 rpm and 33 1/3 rpm is that you would put your favorite 45 on and forget to change the speed back from 33 1/3! You would suddenly realize that this was the case when your favorite singer’s voice would drop about two octaves and all the music had a strange creepy sound. You would then grab the lever (yes they had levers!) and change the speed to 45 and suddenly everything would return to normal. The thing I would like you to consider is maybe the 45 running at 33 1/3 was actually closer to reality.
I live in Asia and one of the things that you have to get used to is that internet connections are notoriously slow and intermittent. This is particularly annoying to me because I get my English news from a little box that connects to the internet. The other day I was watching a news broadcast and suddenly the video started going in slow motion. I was watching the anchors report one frame at a time. While this was annoying as I have already mentioned a thought came to mind. The reason the term Motion Picture exists is that what was later termed a “movie” was a series of still photos that when viewed in rapid secession caused the subjects of the still photos to appear to be moving in a life like fashion.
Most people that have even a passing interest in Buddhism have heard of mindfulness meditation. Well what is the purpose of mindfulness meditation? If you listen to pop culture the purpose of mindfulness meditation is relaxation, stress relief, improving health, or improving your mental capacity in some way. While all of these things are effects of meditation to the Buddhist they are really just side effects. This is because in a Buddhist sense these things, while seeming good in an overall, are not the purpose of the practice at all.
Buddhism is first and foremost a practice. The purpose of your “practice” is to put the Buddhist teachings or Dharma into action. Buddhism is very different then western religions where the teachings are meant to be understood intellectually. In Buddhism the teachings are meant to be experienced. This is how we develop faith in the Dharma. When we are taught something and our practice puts it into action and lets us experience the truth of it we gain faith that the teachings are true. This can drive or inspire us to dedicate ourselves more to the various practices of our particular style of Buddhism. I always say that the real differences between all the different Buddhist schools (All those Yanna’s) is not that they are really teaching anything different it is just that their practices are different ways to get us to realize the same teachings through experience .
According to the Buddha’s teachings all that really exists is this present moment. The past only exists in our memory. There is no expression of the past in reality, it exists only in our mind. The past as it exists in our mind is only an approximation of what truly happened. Our minds can only process so much information at one time. Since we are bombarded by a multitude of stimuli at once our brain picks and chooses what it wants to spend processing time on so we only get a fractionalized picture of what truly happened. Add to that the fact that all that we see, hear, and feel is interpreted through a lens of our own past experience and biases. Have you ever gone back to a place of your childhood that you have vivid memories of? More often then not it is a bit of a strange experience because as soon as you get there you realize that there is something not quite right about you “vivid” memory. Things just don’t look exactly as you remembered them. One example of this is that things that you remembered as big seem small! Well this makes sense because when you were originally seeing this place you yourself were small! So your view and therefore your memory is tainted by your view (past experience, life experience) at that time. Lastly a major problem with most of us (especially those that remember using a record player!) is that because we are constantly receiving new information or stimulus we forget some of the details of our experience. This is aggravated further by the fact that our brains when faced with the possibility of “not remembering” will often create a detail of the memory on the spot of our own choosing and then this becomes part of the story (memory).
The future does not exist as it has not happened yet. We cannot experience anything that has not yet occurred. If we are experiencing something that has not yet occur it would be called a fantasy. This is kind of funny when you think about it because how much “time” do we spend in our head thinking about what is going to happen tomorrow or that happened yesterday. I would say that if you are an average person, and objective, you would find that you spend most of your time in one or the other, past or future. Well what is wrong with this way of living life?
At the core of the Buddhist teaching is understanding reality as it is, not necessarily how we want it t be. If we concede that the past and future do not exist that leaves us only with the present moment. That is the true purpose of mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness lets us experience the present moment as it is, and that by its very nature is reality. Mindfulness practice puts into action the Buddha’s teachings on Time, Impermanence, Dependent origination, and Not-self. All there is, is a constant NOW! A series of present moments just like those individual photos in the frames of a movie film.
When life throws us a curve ball and we are dealing with some sort of difficulty or tragedy it is very important to go back to practicing mindfulness. When we are in this state we are often overwhelmed with the worry of what may happen in the future or regrets that we have about the past. By focusing on the present moment we can see that although something bad may have happened in the past or may happen in the future, right now this very moment we are present and the reality is that we are OK.
So if you are one of the very few that still have a record player, next time you put that 45 on and you left it in 33 1/3, let it play. In the end although it may not be what you want it to be, it is much closer to reality.