That was a beautiful park with a beautiful name: Minami Tateishi. It literally means ‘fresh waters of the South.’
We passed by it on the bus going somewhere else. It was like a woman with long, flowing, lustrous green hair dotted with pink, late-blooming yaesakura. I gazed intently out of the bus window, so charmed by her beauty that I decided to go back there the following day.
The next morning, I was back at Minami Tateishi. Inside the park, this time.
The problem is: That fascinated, enamored, lovely feeling I had about her the day before had vanished.
I was hoping to feel a sense of calm, serenity and contentment one would normally feel while being in a park… especially a park this lush and beautiful, pulsing with the vitality of spring, with gorgeous mountains as the backdrop.
I did not feel that, at all.
I went around the park searching for that feeling… crossing the paths winding around the tree-lined streams, sitting on the rocks, touching the newly-blossomed rhododendrons, looking at elderly people walking their dogs or kindergarten kids playing hide and seek…
That feeling was nowhere to be found.
Instead, I felt restless, anxious, slightly annoyed, even disappointed, and I could not wait for the bus to get out of there soon enough.
I had been so enamored by ‘the idea of being in the park’ but I was not ‘having the experience of being in the park’ at all.
That was when it hit me: We may have an idea about a circumstance or a future experience, but it’s got nothing to do with the actual experience itself.
You know how we often think we would feel a certain way if we were to have certain things or be in certain circumstances?
For example, we think we’d feel really happy and satisfied if we were to find that perfect partner. Or we think we’d feel secure and peaceful if we were making a lot of money each month. Or we’d feel on top of the world if we were able to travel anywhere, anytime without constraints.
Life doesn’t actually work like that. It might seem to work like that, but it doesn’t.
We may have an idea about how we may feel in a situation, but that idea has got nothing to do with our actual experience in the moment, in that situation.
Let me share another example.
For the trip to Japan to visit my sister, I knew I’d have to take two planes and many buses, with a 5-hour transit, departing before midnight and arriving in the evening the day after. It sounded arduous, and I dreaded it since I’d get to have no sleep that one night. But the actual experience I had going through all that endless traveling turned out to be okay. It was not so dreadful or arduous as I had expected it to be, even though I could not really sleep at all.
So I reasoned that it was not so bad because I was excited about the prospect of seeing my sister and of the upcoming vacation. The return journey would be awful then, when the vacation was over.
Again, I was wrong. I was sad that the vacation was over, I was tired, but the experience of the return trip was fine too.
This surprises me. It tells me that oftentimes we have preconceived ideas about how a situation or person would make us feel, and that has nothing to do with the actual experience in that moment itself.
This is because, as human beings, we are always living in the experience of the Present moment, and never in the experience of a future or a past moment.
If we think about a future moment and feel sad, we are actually living in the experience of sadness in this present moment. Sad thoughts are taking form right now in this present moment, creating the feeling of sadness in this present moment. Sadness in the future is an idea, which can never be experienced in the present moment. The same thing goes for the past.
This is illuminating and liberating for me, when it comes to romantic relationships, too.
In the past, I used to hang on to a lot of ideas about how I would feel in a certain relationship dynamic. Some examples:
- If we got together intimately, I would feel attached to the person.
– I should be more loving and accepting toward my partner’s preferences.
– I should be more open and less attached to this person.
– If I asked for this, he’d have less respect for me, or they’d be annoyed with me.
– Commitment is an idea, why would I need it anyway?
– If we did this, our relationship would go down this path…
Ideas looped inside ideas on top of other ideas…
They have greatly restricted my range of movements aka what I allow myself to do and be and ask for.
Distinguishing ‘ideas’ and ‘actual, in the moment experience’ has been very freeing for me. It takes a load off my mind. It’s a relief because there’s no need to project into the future, projections have proven to be inaccurate anyway so what’s the point. All there is to do is to stay in the present, in the actual, embodied experience right here and now, and everything else will reveal itself so clearly and effortlessly.
Saying yes, saying no, making requests, asking for what I love in that moment… Staying with Life, in the present moment, moving with the present moment. This is all we ever ‘have’ to do, it’s fairly straightforward and simple, not anything complicated that we’ve made it out to be with ideas in our heads.
Looking back, I thank Minami Tateishi for the unexpected treasure of an embodied revelation. Her gift to me was not at all what I had thought, not the feeling of being in the park, but the realization that the experience of being in the park does not come from the idea of being there.
What does this realization do for you?