"To really be with the raw stuff of this moment doesn't need identification or labeling. We don't need to know it. Just being has nothing to do with expectation. It has nothing to do with a goal. Having a goal is already moving away. From what? What are we moving away from? We think we can't bear it — the boredom, the depression, the pain. We feel it's too awful, too difficult. It's not the 'spiritual work' we imagine. But these are all thoughts, feelings, labels. What is the real thing — this instant of not expecting anything!" So writes Toni Packer, a former Zen teacher who now teaches and runs retreats at Springwater Center in Springwater, New York. She is the author of The Work of This Moment and The Wonder of Presence and the Way of Meditative Inquiry. This collection of essays, articles, correspondence and talks present her Eastern philosophy.

It takes practice to listen and look carefully at what is going on in and around us. The brain is constantly active creating associations, feelings, reactions, judgments, and impulses. Packer shows the many ways we try to escape from the present moment through goals, expectations, competition, effort, old tapes, the stories we tell, comparisons, and remedies for improvement. In an essay titled "The Quest for Enlightenment," Packer reveals how even a good thing can be covered over with the ego, labeling, and craving an experience. She ends with the admission: "It's such a relief to realize that we don't have to be anything." In "Helping Others," the author affirms the power of truly being present with other human beings in tough times without an agenda or wanting or resisting anything.