This: “… We already are it. It is every moment, just as it is …” ~ Henry Shukman

This sunset shukman

Zen does not require belief in anything and instead the “practice” helps live a fulfilling life in the ordinary. This is something Zen masters emphasize by saying things like “my miracle is drawing water and carrying wood” … seeing the “miracle” in everyday life … in every action … in every engagement. Zen is not about fixing any problem but rather accepting life just as it is – right now right here. As Henry Shukman says: “If you’re looking for a transcendent fix, an escape from all your problems, zen is not for you”

Henry goes a bit further and says that “Zen is also about closing off our escape routes, so that in the end there is nowhere to go. We have no choice but to be right here, where we are.”

So, today Henry takes us on a brief foray into the futility of this “escape” … to hopefully discover the “gem” that awaits if we were to abandon the “escape” … and embrace the This that we have now (and here) … something that is also exquisitely underscored in a Rumi poem …

This … or Escape?

Zen is also about closing off our escape routes, so that in the end there is nowhere to go. We have no choice but to be right here, where we are.

We seem to long for transcendence, to escape ourselves and our lives, and find a promised land where all is well, which somehow we intuit must exist. Whether the metaphor is the pining for a vanished Eden which we messed up and lost (the Abrahamic view), or the desire to clear away “impurities” and so reveal the true self (the eastern view), we all seem to yearn for something indescribably precious which has been lost to our experience.

everest yearning this shukman

We’re right to, it seems. There surely is a radical clarification that can befall us. We can discover a reality beyond space and time, which holds all space and time – in other words, all our experience – and which in fact all space and time is an expression of. Yet it is beyond thought or knowing.

But when we have a taste of it, it tends to leave an impression. Then we tend to cling to that impression as if it were it itself. We may think we’ve got it, and that we now know what it is.

Yet this reality is not a thing. It cannot be known in that way. “It belongs neither to knowing or not-knowing,” as Nansen said. It is in fact before-knowing, or pra-jna (that which exists before knowing). Therefore, our attempts to go to it, or to be in it, or to find it, are doomed from the start. We already are it. It is every moment, just as it is.

In other words, our yearning to escape to another realm is thwarted from the start.

If we are lucky enough to experience this other dimension, it has in the end no choice but to drive us back to just this – this very moment, here, now, as we sit reading these words with the sun falling on the desk through the window, or the rain softly hissing outside, or the teacup steaming at the elbow, or the telephone ringing, or the traffic grumbling by outside, or the thought about something we need to do – whatever is now, this is it.

So, all roads lead back to here and now. All our practice is just to take us here, no matter what existential revelations we may or may not be blessed with along the way.

Therefore, the escape routes we longed for were in a sense the problem all along. They encouraged the notion that we were looking for something else. Whereas really what we were seeking all along was precisely this – just what is here and now. And to encounter this is our greatest possible blessing.

old street just here now shukman

When Nansen was asked if there is a teaching that has never been preached to the people, he answered yes. What is it? the monk asked. Nansen said: “This is not mind, this is not Buddha, this is not a thing.”

What is this? What is he speaking of? Where can we meet him, find him, join him? Where else is there?

~ Henry Shukman

And below is Rumi’s take on the “same” This

As expressed through his poem (This We Have Now) translated by Coleman Barks, who says: “Majesty is that, composite attention felt as a presence, dawn, a company of friends, a splendor that is prior to, and the source of, the universe. Rumi says it is a state of awareness best spoken of in terms of what it is not …”  … and that Majesty is This … and …

sunrise this majesty rumi shukman

This we have now
is not imagination.

This is not
grief or joy.

Not a judging state,
or an elation,
or sadness.

Those come
and go.

This is the presence
that doesn’t.

And … This we have now.


What else could human beings want?

When grapes turn to wine,
they’re wanting

And … This we have now.

When the night sky pours by,
It’s really a crowd of beggars,
and they all want some of this!

And … This we have now.

that we are now
created the body, cell by cell,
like bees building a honeycomb.

The human body and the universe
grew from this, not this
from the  universe and the human body.

And … This we have now.

~ Rumi

Above Rumi poem in italics is an “edited/altered/adapted” version of Rumi’s original poem, titled This We Have Now … the emphases (e.g., repeated inclusion of “And … This we have now.” and bolding) are by Sanjiv Manifest. The original poem and Coleman’s quote re “Majesty” is from The Essential Rumi, Translations by Coleman Barks with John Moyne.


As we’ve done since COVID emerged … Go Fund Me needs to be commended for organizing various campaigns targeted towards COVID-19 relief efforts. All of these campaigns are worthy of our attention … but for now we wanted to highlight TWO critical ones that we have donated personally and also as Stillness Speaks:

Despite the financial challenges that are amongst us all, 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 these 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 a) 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 b) Go Fund Me for organizing America’s Food Fund to feed the needy.



May you embrace This that we have now … and …

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


All italicized text under “This … or Escape?” and above ” ~ Henry Shukman” is from Henry’s weekly message: Escape in Mountain Cloud Zen Center’s January 25, 2021 weekly Newsletter and is published here with his permission. And the italicized text in the 1st blockquote is also from Mountain Cloud Zen Center website.
Images (edited and logos added): Featured and 1) Beautiful sunset over an ancient Genoese tower near Lumio in the Balagne region Corsica by joningall, 2) Evening colored view of Mount Everest with tourist by prudek, 3) Old street by DeepGreen, 4) Stone rock on sandy beach in colorful sunrise by All purchased from depositphotos, for use only on our website/social channels (these images are not permitted to be shared separate from this post).


We also want to send our latest articles, videos, and podcasts via email once per week. As a thank you for signing up, you'll receive a video we produced that is unavailable anywhere else on the Internet.

Thank you! Please check your email for a welcome message and a link to the video.