Zen students are with their masters at least ten years before they presume to teach others. Nan-in was visited by Tenno, who, having passed his apprenticeship, had become a teacher. The day happened to be rainy, so Tenno wore wooden clogs and carried an umbrella. After greeting him Nan-in remarked: "I suppose you left your wooden clogs in the vestibule. I want to know if your umbrella is on the right or left side of the clogs." Tenno, confused, had no instant answer. He realized that he was unable to carry his Zen every minute. He became Nan-in's pupil, and he studied six more years to accomplish his every-minute Zen.
I spend so much time thinking about where I ought to be (physically, mentally, academically, professionally, emotionally, maternally, spiritually,) that I often forget where my umbrella is. In fact, I'm nearly always thinking about what happened yesterday or what will happen tomorrow, when I'm going to do this or that, when I'm going to learn this or that, what needs to be done and what needs to be done again. My thought processes are almost always tied up in things that don't exist - the past is over, never to be here again, and the future hasn't happened yet. I know I'm not alone in this. So why are we so ready to dismiss Now as the most important thing, the time that really matters? Why do we seem to think that NOW is insignificant?Now is all I have. It's all any of us have.