Here’s the incredible medical case of H.M. …
He knew his name. That much he could remember.
He knew that his father’s family came from Thibodaux, La., and his mother was from Ireland, and he knew about the 1929 stock market crash and World War II and life in the 1940s.
But he could remember almost nothing after that.
He developed a syndromeneurologists call profound amnesia. He had lost the ability to form new memories.
For the next 55 years, each time he met a friend, each time he ate a meal, each time he walked in the woods it was as if for the first time.
Living at his parents’ house, and later with a relative through the 1970s, Mr. Molaison helped with the lawn, raked leaves and relaxed in front of thetelevision. He could navigate through a day attending to mundanedetails — fixing a lunch, making his bed — only by drawing on what hecould remember from his first 27 years.
The next time you hear that Zen is about “Living in the Moment“, remember that incredible life story. The expression “Living in the Moment” is a kind of Zen cliche, too easily bandied about without folks really knowing what it means. If you truly lived only “in the moment” with no thought of past or future, you would be much like that poor man who was barely able to function in life. You would stumble into walls, forget where you were going.
We can not only live in the present, but need to learn from the past and plan for the future … otherwise we would just keep repeating the same mistakes again and again, would not remember where we parked the car, and could not even go shopping for tomorrow’s supper or remember to get the baby out of the bath!
Human beings need to learn from the
past, plan for the
future. So, when Zen folks talk about “being in the moment
“, a better meaning is that we learn to embrace this present moment
, and our crazy lives as they are now, without any thought that this moment
should be some other way other than it is. We learn to “just be here” when we want to be …playing with our children, appreciating a mountain scene, at home orwork … without always
having our head lost somewhere else.
Yet sometimes we must have our heads somewhere else and be occupied with thoughts of past and future. At those times, just be present with that: Be present with not always being present!! That is truly ‘being present’ with what is in that moment, you see.
(remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells;
a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended)