This is one of my favourite teachings. It comes from Pema Chödrön’s compilation book, Comfortable with Uncertainty. It is a teaching that I like to read at the beginning of a class, prior to teaching ujayyi and beginning asana. I am posting it here that all may benefit.
There was once a lady who was arrogant and proud. Determined to gain enlightenment, she asked all the authorities how to go about it. She was told, “Well, if you climb to the top of this very high mountain, you’ll find a cave there. Sitting inside that cave is a wise old woman. She’ll tell you.”
Having endured great hardships, the lady finally found this cave. Sure enough, sitting there was a gentle, spiritual-looking old woman in white clothing who smiled beatifically. Overcome with awe and respect, the lady prostrated at the feet of this woman and said, “I want to attain enlightenment. Show me how!”
The wise woman looked at her, and asked sweetly, “Are you sure you want to attain enlightenment?”
And the woman said, “Of course I’m sure.”
Whereupon the smiling woman turned into a demon, stood up brandishing a great big stick, and started chasing her, saying, “Now! Now! Now!“
For the rest of her life, that lady could never get away from the demon who was always saying, “Now!“
Now – that’s the key. Mindfulness trains us to be awake and alive, fully curious, about now. The out-breath is now, the in-breath is now, waking up from our fantasies is now, and even the fantasies are now. The more you are completely now, the more you realize you’re standing in the middle of a sacred circle. It’s no small affair, whether you’re brushing your teeth or cooling your food or wiping your bottom.
Whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it now.