I was walking in the woods with my dog yesterday.  The wind had whipped the grey away leaving patches of blue sky. It’s funny how the heat from the sun in the autumn feels so good.

I was thinking about nothing in particular, well nothing I can now remember. I wasn’t feeling happy or sad.

An eagle flew by just brushing the top of a tree and returned to settle on it. My attention turned outwards instead of inward. The trees were swaying in the wind. The tops of some had turned a soft yellow but mostly they were still a lush green.

For a few minutes at least I was totally immersed in the movement and color of the trees.I felt a sense of joy that comes from just being here in the present.

I have studied Advaita Vedanta which is similar to Taoism and Zen. I understand intellectually that the present moment, right now, is the only thing which is real. The past has gone and exists only in thoughts.  For example no matter how hard I try to remember that incredible feeling of joy I felt yesterday, it’s gone. I can do exactly the same walk today hoping for that same feeling. It may come or it may not. I do know that it will return only when my thoughts are not crowding out my surroundings: when I become aware of the world outside—of which I am a part.

Sitting at my desk now I need to think. Thoughts are obviously necessary. I need to plan what I’m going to write next, lunch, and all the little events that take place in my day. I need to plan things for the future—when I’m going to see my children and grandchildren, can I afford to take a holiday and so on.

But when my thoughts are not being useful—when for example I spend time worrying about how I should have done something better or attempting to relive happy moments  or worrying about things in the future which I can’t control, then I’m living in the shadows.

I am gradually becoming aware of the contentment of just being in the present. Yesterday the warming rays of the autumn sun dispelled the shadows of  my thoughts and there was  room for being alive again, part of everything—just being,

The present is so much more vivid and real than the past or the future. It is in the present moment that contentment and spontaneous flashes of joy happen.

The more I am able to live in the present—to just be, with no expectations or desires, the easier it is for the clutter of my thoughts to fade away.

We are all part of nature, we are all part of what we call God. When we look at nature directly in the present, right here, right now, we are free from the gossip of the mind and  can see vividly the glory and joy of now.

Val Walton

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