Choosing what is: In this passing moment karma ripens and all things come to be. I vow to choose what is. ~ Hogen Bays

hummingbird choosing what is bays

Choosing What is seems like a very simple and effortless act … but arguably it is also an impossible act … how can you choose what is already here ? … living with, and/or being, what is seems unavoidable, doesn’t it ? … and yet “shoulds and coulds and worries” tend to drive our daily existence …

Wanting to be in the moment or being present … is why mindfulness practice is on the rise … as Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us: “… Mindfulness is the energy that helps us to know what is going on in the present moment. I drink water and I know that I am drinking the water. Drinking the water is what is happening …”

Or as Joan Tollifson, a nonduality teacher, says: “… Liberation is being just this moment, recognizing the simplicity of what is and being awake to the undivided unicity that is ever-present and ever-changing …” 

The current COVID crisis seems to be inviting (some would say forcing) all of us to be more present to what is because uncertainty is all pervasive … and living in the moment might help reduce anxiety, fear, or despair …

So, today, as part of our ongoing theme to balance out these troubling times by encouraging qualities that bring humanity together … we explore the “ground” where the human dynamic unfolds, i.e., being present or choosing what is … this is where the human “dance” occurs … where we “practice” all interactions including division or union … where we engage in qualities that dissolve anxiety, despair, fear, hatred, and more …

… but before that exploration …

We’d like to commend Go Fund Me for continuing to organize various pertinent campaigns addressing the current urgent needs. All of these campaigns are worthy of our attention … but for now we are highlighting TWO critical ones that we are supporting personally and also as Stillness Speaks (through donations):

We are all facing financial challenges but IF your situation allows you to donate and help then …

… please visit  Frontline Responders Fund’s Go Fund Me page … and help deliver crucial supplies to the frontline responders …

… and/or visit  America’s Food Fund Go Fund Me page and help feed the neighbors in need …

And, we again, express our deepest gratitude to 1) the COVID-19 Frontline Responders (all the healthcare professionals – doctors, nurses, hospital/medical-services staff – firefighters, law enforcement, volunteers, and any/all the people involved in keeping the “system-at-large” functioning for ALL of us) … and 2) Go Fund Me for organizing such campaigns …

THANK YOU – our lives would not be possible without your dedication.


Now …  let’s consider … choosing what isthrough a Buddhist poem (full attribution at the bottom of the post) by Hogen Bays co-abbot of Great Vow Zen Monastery … the poem is aptly titled Liberation From All Obstructions because that is the natural consequence of choosing what is …

So … pause … read … reflect … and see where it leads you …

Choosing What Is: Liberation From All Obstructions

“In the presence of Sangha, in the light of Dharma,
in oneness with Buddhamay my path
to complete enlightenment benefit everyone!

buddha cosmos oneness what is bays

In this passing moment karma ripens
and all things come to be.
I vow to choose what is:

If there is cost, I choose to pay.
If there is need, I choose to give.
If there is pain, I choose to feel.
If there is sorrow, I choose to grieve.

When burning — I choose heat.
When calm — I choose peace.
When starving — I choose hunger.
When happy — I choose joy.

Whom I encounter, I choose to meet.
What I shoulder, I choose to bear.
When it is my death, I choose to die.
Where this takes me, I choose to go.

Being with what is — I respond to what is.

This life is as real as a dream;
the one who knows it can not be found;
and, truth is not a thing — Therefore I vow
to choose THIS dharma entrance gate!

rivetr nature choosing what is bays

May all Buddhas and Wise Ones
help me live this vow.

 ~~ Hogen Bays

Regarding choosing what is, Ivan M. Granger, the editor of the anthology from where the above poem is excerpted, aptly says:

“… the human mind is not entirely sane. It often chooses fantasy and imaginings, shoulds and coulds, possibilities and even impossibilities over what is. Very few of us truly dwell in reality. Rarely do we fully experience the moments of our lives. 

What is it that we are straining for as we constantly lean away from “what is”? What do we think is missing that we need? We don’t need someone else’s life. We don’t need a perfect marriage, better finances, or a better place in society. We don’t even need to be a saint living in the mountains. What’s missing is ourselves. What we really need is to stand in our own shoes, to be utterly ourselves. We need that missing ingredient—being present. We need to live, with honesty and an open heart, the life that already moves through us.

When starving—I choose hunger.
When happy—I choose joy.

When we are hungry, can we choose anything other than hunger? When happy, isn’t joy automatic? The truth is that we constantly choose. Ask yourself, how often do we really sit with our hunger and sorrow? How often do we allow ourselves to dance with the joy bubbling up inside us? How often do we notice these things at all? The power of a practice like Zen is that it defines the human journey, not as escape, but as coming home, of settling into ourselves and being present with the present. It challenges us to actually live the moment that continuously arrives and passes and renews itself.  By making this journey to “what is,” we finally meet ourselves and learn what this amazing thing is that we call life, with all its rich, joyful, painful, and transitory beauty …”

sunrise beach moment arrives passes renews bays granger

Another perspective on the essence of Hogen Bays prayer was included in one of our recent posts, The Nine Prayers …. expressed through Thich Nhat Hanh’s commentary … where he talks about the “… approach to prayer in Buddhism …” : “… We practice silent meditation, and we try to practice mindfulness in everything we do, to awaken to what is going on inside us and all around us in each moment …”

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May you choose what is … in every moment of your life … and …

May you bring more love and compassion in your daily rhythm and interactions with others … and …

May you remain safe and healthy as you navigate these troubling times.


Thich Nhat Hanh’s quote from The Moment is Perfect by Thich Nhat Hanh, May 1, 2008 Lion’s Roar.
Joan Tollifson Quote: The Simplicity of What Is (Part 1 of 7) – a post on our website.
Above Poem plus all the italicized text (including Ivan M. Granger’s excerpts) in the blockquotes (except Thay & Joan & Other quotes): The Longing In Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Edited with commentary by Ivan M. Granger.
Thich Nhat Hanh’s quote re approach to Buddhism – see The Nine Prayers for attribution.
Images: (edited and logo added): Featured and 1) Action feeding scene in green tropical forest. Rufous-breasted hairy hermit hummingbird by OndrejProsicky, 2) Composite of a) Planet earth from the space by 4masik and b) Buddha face close up by vgorbash, 3) Waterfall, river flow in nature, flora by Imaginechina-Tuchong, 4) Sunrise on the beach of la renega in Oropesa by vicenfoto. All purchased from depositphotos, for use only on our. All purchased from depositphotos, for use only on our website/social channels (these images are not permitted to be shared separate from this post).


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