The Taoist tradition from ancient China contains a number of references to being in the present moment. The text called The Hua Hu Ching, said to contain the teachings of the legendary sage Lao Tzu, contains the clearest references of any ancient text and tradition about how to be in the present moment.
Overall, the following excerpts from the Hua Hu Ching provide an excellent guide for those wishing to understand how to be in the present moment themselves.
This excerpt conveys how by coming out of daydreams and keeping the mind clear, one allows their “original insight” and “integral nature” to emerge:
“If you correct your mind, the rest of your life will fall into place. This is true because the mind is the governing aspect of a human life. If the river flows clearly and cleanly through the proper channel, all will be well along its banks.
The Integral Way depends on decreasing, not increasing: To correct your mind, rely on not doing.
Stop thinking and clinging to complications; keep your mind detached and whole. Eliminate mental muddiness and obscurity; keep your mind crystal clear. Avoid daydreaming and allow your pure original insight to emerge. Quiet your emotions and abide in serenity. Don’t go crazy with the worship of idols, images, and ideas; this is like putting a new head on top of the head you already have.
Remember: if you can cease all restless activity, your integral nature will appear.”
~Hua Hu Ching, Chapter forty-five. Translated by Brian Walker1
This passage describes how the “integral wisdom” found by observing the moment in “pure awareness” exceeds “conceptual understanding” and “worldly wisdom” as a means to grasp the truth:
“… there are two kinds of wisdom. The first is worldly wisdom, which is a conceptual understanding of your experiences. Because it follows after the events themselves, it necessarily inhibits your direct understanding of truth.
The second kind, integral wisdom, involves a direct participation in every moment: the observer and the observed are dissolved in the light of pure awareness, and no mental concepts or attitudes are present to dim that light.
The blessings and wisdom that accrue to those who practice the Integral Way and lead others to it are a billion times greater than all worldly blessings and wisdom combined.”
~Hua Hu Ching, Chapter 26. Translated by Brian Walker2
In the passage below, it is said that by staying within the present moment, one can attain inner clarity and find “the Tao”. In Taoism, “the Tao” can refer to the source of creation, and also the higher spiritual reality underlying it:
“Each moment is fragile and fleeting. The moment of the past cannot be kept, however beautiful. The moment of the present cannot be held, however enjoyable. The moment of the future cannot be caught, however desirable. But the mind is desperate to fix the river in place.
Possessed by ideas of the past, preoccupied with images of the future, it overlooks the plain truth of the moment. The one who can dissolve her mind will suddenly discover the Tao at her feet, and clarity at hand.”
~Hua Hu Ching, Chapter twenty-one. Translated by Brian Walker.3
The following passage compares the ego to a monkey always swinging from one desire, conflict or idea to another; it counsels to “let it go” by observing it with detachment.
“The ego is a monkey catapulting through the jungle: Totally fascinated by the realm of the senses, it swings from one desire to the next, one conflict to the next, and one self-centered idea to the next. If you threaten it, it actually fears for its life.
Let this monkey go. Let the senses go. Let desires go. Let conflicts go. Let ideas go. Let the fiction of life and death go. Just remain in the center, watching. And then forget that you are there.”
~Hua Hu Ching, Chapter 10. Translated by Brian Walker4
The following passage explains the way to “true mastery” is not found in “avoiding the world” by “constantly sitting in silent meditation” but through incorporating “integral awareness” into one’s everyday life, conduct, and interaction with others.
“Do you think you can clear your mind by sitting constantly in silent meditation? This makes your mind narrow, not clear. Integral awareness is fluid and adaptable, present in all places and at all times. That is true meditation.
Who can attain clarity and simplicity by avoiding the world? The Tao is clear and simple, and it doesn’t avoid the world.
Why not simply honor your parents, love your children, help your brothers and sisters, be faithful to your friends, care for your mate with devotion, complete your work cooperatively and joyfully, assume responsibility for problems, practice virtue without first demanding it of others, understand the highest truths yet retain an ordinary manner?
That would be true clarity, true simplicity, and true mastery.”5
~Hua Hu Ching, Chapter fifty-two. Translated by Brian Walker
Jenny Resnick, Jordan Resnick, Justin Norris, and Vida Norris contributed research to this article.