The First Moment

M A R C H   2 0 1 4

The clock ticks. The sun rises. Today takes the place of yesterday. This breath gives itself up to this one. My pen point slides on the paper, your eye moves across the words, each moment giving up, letting go.

boatLetting go is the gift of emptiness, and the genesis of you and me at this moment. How intimate it is! Always beginning by letting go. “The place of release is where it all begins,” a scripture tells us. We appear by vanishing. This is not done once, but always. It is the most common miracle — the entire cosmos refreshing itself every instant.

“Nirvana,” Nagarjuna wrote, “is the letting go of what arises and passes.” This means nirvana — what we might call “refreshing ease” — is present in the way each moment offers itself by letting go. This offering is called the first moment.

The first moment is prior to our thoughts about it. Our ideas can’t touch it. It is the empty clearing that is so close we can’t see it. We can’t see it, we can’t think it, and yet the invisible gift of the first moment is this most intimate heart we share with the universe.

Even though we can’t see the first moment, our life practice must be to never lose sight of it. That is, the letting go that is emptiness must become familiar and present in the same way that space or gravity is familiar and present to us. We must let letting go wash us of our fixed ideas. Luckily the whole universe is working this way, so we have help.

But our life practice isn’t only about opening ourselves to the flow of letting go. Simultaneously we are created. There is no gap between emptiness — letting go — and our appearing as we do. The universe spontaneously appears in its wholeness, including you and me, in this instant. This spontaneity is one way to sense our interdependence with all events everywhere. Everything appears simultaneously now, born of the first moment.

To the extent we experience ourselves to be the intersection of emptiness and appearance, our life practice is working. While it takes utter resolve on our part to recognize this, the practice itself is effortless since it’s how everything is happening already. Our resolve is not a strain, or something we make happen. It is pure faith, radiant in every atom of our being. All we have to do is let go and open.

Opening in the first moment we can be completely devoted to our life and we can take care of it tenderly and wisely. Opening and gliding in the first moment there is no sense we are a separate existence, a self trying to have its way in the midst of everything else. Our responsiveness to what occurs is sensitive and easy-going. Here we are not at fault, nor are we worthy of praise. Here we are calm, though everything is changing and letting go. Our body moves gracefully. Our thoughts and gestures are generous. In the first moment we have nothing to lose. Our happiness is without cause.