It is essential to see that we live our lives most of the time in the three times; that’s to say, the past, the present, and the future. We spend our time playing past, present, and future. Why do I suffer now? It’s because of something in the past. What about what should I do in the future? Well, I should plan to do something in the future. The odd fact is that the past actually is dead. There are memories of it, but everything in the past is actually gone, and everything in the future has not yet arisen. There’s only one place where you can actually be, and that is now. This needs thinking about, because it’s very easy to say that’s a lot of nonsense—of course there’s past, present, and future. But actually, the only place where there is something, is-ness, is only now. How could there be anything else? Anything else is was-ness or will-be. Is-ness is only now. And you, therefore, can only be now. You cannot be in the past. That’s dead. You cannot be in the future. It hasn’t come. You can only be now.

From the dharma talk “Life Koans and Retreat Experience,” given by John Crook on March 9, 2006, at the Chan Meditation Center in Elmhurst, NY. Originally published in Chan Magazine, www.chancenter.org.

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