The "Curriculum" Is "Just This"

"Not only is it always now. The 'curriculum' of this adventure we call living, where mindfulness can play such a pivotal role, is always what is unfolding in this moment, whether we like what is happening or not.

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"Whatever is arising in this moment becomes the curriculum for liberating ourselves from the shackles of greed, hatred, and delusion. We do not need some ideal or romantic fairy tale of what would be best for us. What we most need is what is already given to us: the actuality of things as they are in the only moment we will ever have — this one.

"And the key for apprehending and comprehending what is happening and for liberating ourselves from the momentum of our unconscious habits of mind lies in whether we can catch the moment in which it first registers that whatever has arisen is pleasant (if it is pleasant), or unpleasant (if it is unpleasant), or neither pleasant nor unpleasant. This is the basic and primary lens through which we apprehend any and every object of attention. It makes all the difference as to what happens in the very next moment in our mind and in our life — if we can be aware of this usually unconscious and automatic appraisal mechanism.

"The definition of 'pleasant' is that we desire our connection to the object of attention to be sustained, and we would suffer if it were curtailed. We want more of it, and we therefore can fall easily into greed in that moment if we do not simply note the pleasant quality in awareness and let it rest at that.

"The definition of 'unpleasant' is that we desire the experience of this moment to end, and would suffer if it were sustained. If we automatically fall into pushing it away or trying to shorten its duration, we have already fallen into aversion.

"And the definition of 'neither pleasant nor unpleasant' is that it has none of these attributes and is therefore hard to notice in the first place. When something is neither pleasant nor unpleasant, it is easy to ignore and we can therefore easily fall into delusion, ignorance, and illusion in relationship to it.

"So mindfulness of the pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral quality of any moment is the key to not falling into the grip of greed, aversion, or delusion — or extracting ourselves rapidly when we do, as we inevitably will over and over again. Mindfulness, applied at the moment of contact with a particular object of attention arising in our experience, puts a momentary end to unnecessary, adventitious suffering, because the suffering resides neither in the unpleasantness nor in the pleasantness. It is in the aversion and in the greed — it is in the clinging and the self-identification.

"All this can dissolve in a moment, when awareness apprehends what is actually unfolding . . . like the soap bubble being touched by the finger.

"Liberation from suffering in that very moment.
"Liberation from greed, hatred, and delusion.
"Now for the next moment, which, of course, is this one."