Thus have I heard. At one time the Lord was staying near Savatthi, at the Jeta Grove in Anathapindika’s monastery. Now when night was passing a certain devata, lighting up the whole Jeta Grove with her surpassing beauty, approached the Lord. Having drawn near and prostrated herself she stood to one side.
Standing there the devata said:
Those living in the forest,
Peaceful and calm, of pure life,
Eating but one meal a day:
How is it they appear so radiant?
The Lord replied:
They sorrow not for what is past,
They have no longing for the future,
The present is sufficient for them:
Hence it is they appear so radiant.
By having longing for the future,
By sorrowing over what is past,
By this fools are withered up
As a cut down tender reed.
Indeed, blessed we are when we may truly live in and for the present moment, no worries or fears and no hopes or regrets, just being. I think such living would be aptly described in Christian terms as living in the fullness of God’s grace. In sporting terms it is known as the zone. And in recent ‘positive psychology’ it has been termed ‘flow: the state of optimal experience.’
All of these are good realizations, good labels placed on a this way of being. But the real work is in getting there, and getting there for longer and longer (eventually permanent) periods. In order to do this work, early Buddhists well understood the power of wilderness: no distractions, no labels or even words, heightened senses, and true contact with the flux of reality. We have a hard time getting this in our plastic and glass-filled world, where things last “forever” and we under the constant assault of advertisers trying to convince us that whatever we have now is just not (big/fast/strong/shiny/tasty/etc) enough.
I wonder sometimes if the Buddha would have been just freaked out by the corporate/commercial/international madhouse of a world we sometimes seem to live in.
No matter. The important thing is that we are here, and as crazy as it gets we always have the freedom and opportunity to be present. Luckily, for some of us, wilderness is readily available. It is no panacea though. If you want to, you can carry with you all your mental (and physical) junk from day-to-day life into the wilderness. To ensure we all get the most out of wilderness experience, we must practice (daily) ‘letting go’ of junk, preferably through a period of sitting meditation. Such periods train the mind to let go, to be open, and to live radiantly in the present.