Haseeb Qureshi

Three Lessons on Being Present

It is now my last night here. I have been volunteering on this farm in the south of France for a little over two weeks, but tonight I had to say goodbye to a landscape that is now so familiar to me.

Since I got here, once every night I take a long walk along the winding road leading to the farm. There are no streetlights. You can usually see the stars, and tonight they were brighter than I’ve seen them before – the sky is always clearer in the country. And every night as I walk, thoughts, images, memories promenade through my mind, and occasionally one arrests me for being more poignant than all the rest. The one that caught me on my final night here was a simple question. “What did I come here to expecting to learn? And what did I learn instead?”

I’m not sure entirely what brought me to this farm. I think maybe deep down I viewed it as something of an idyllic acquaintance with nature. Perhaps it was the momentarily attractive idea of doing gruntwork and breaking myself in. Or perhaps I was just tired of bouncing around from country to country, from culture to culture, and wanted to let my soul have a moment to itself. And maybe, somewhere deep down in some embarrassing corner of my mind, perhaps I suspected that I’d fall in love with country life and would decide to live the rest of my life as a hermit at the foot of some mountain.

In pulling bramble down a hill, there is only one thing to do. Keep pulling, keep going. To stay in the moment, in the flow of pulling bramble down a hill. But the moment you turn around to see what foliage betrays your efforts – in that moment, your flow is interrupted. You’re no longer subsumed in the forwardness of where you’re going, but you become preoccupied with the impedance of that which is behind you (and whose observance does not make your work any easier or faster, but in fact only slows you down). I realized that instead of constantly turning my head and being annoyed at how much the bramble caught (and wondering how much longer it’d be till lunch), if I simply didn’t look behind me and kept pulling (and if I felt something catch, just give an extra tug), it all went by much easier and quicker. I focused only on where I was going and what I was doing. And not only did time fly by, but it felt better. My work didn’t feel as frustrating or as pointless.

Pulling bramble down a hill is relatively simple, sure. But in life, the solutions to most problems turn out to be surprisingly simple too. Work a little harder, wait a little longer, love a little more. There are not many obstacles in life that aren’t solved by doing one of these three things, in some way or another. And yet, when obstacles arise we wring our hands, we curse the heavens, we comment on our misfortune and enlist the commiseration of others. We roll around in our minds all the things that went wrong. We imagine all the different ways it could’ve happened, we stare at the clock and count down the seconds, we even count all the things wrong with the person we care about.

But in the end, the solution to any problem is always to look forwards, not backwards. To maintain the flow (or call it zen) of living in the moment and pushing forward, whatever it may be – whether in working, in waiting, in loving, or in dragging bramble down a hill. To look forwards, not backwards. This was the first lesson I learned.

The second lesson: the world around you is already full and beautiful.

We are all guilty of this. It’s probably the gravest of all sins, and yet the most common – to forget the beauty of the world around you.  See, I had decided in my mind that when I got to the country that I would behold how beautiful the country is. And indeed, the French countryside is beautiful. I was not wrong that I would find it beautiful.

But I remember one day, on my 8th or 9th day on the farm, I was doing some work outside a barn that faced a view of the hills surrounding the farm. My back was aching, so I got up, stretched a bit, and looked out towards the muggy fields. And I realized that although I’d only been on this farm for a week – I’d already forgotten about the beauty of where I was. I wasn’t paying attention to it at all. After only a week, I was as blind to it as I would be to the grass in my backyard. And when I commanded myself back into reverence of this scene, the rolling hills and the empty expanse of greenness, it occurred to me – what’s special about this? Being in the country, or being anywhere beautiful is not some kind of continuous rapture, not some continuous aesthetic bombardment of beauty and fantasy on your mind. It’s no different from being anywhere else. You get used to it, and soon it just becomes background.

So why is it that when I’m home, back in Austin, Texas, I don’t command myself to reverence of the beauty around me? All it takes is a conscious desire to appreciate the world. I always imagined that I would go to beautiful places around the world, and there I would be struck. I would be able to appreciate the world as it should be appreciated. But the world around you is already full, and it is already beautiful. Every moment you can look around you, assume a beginner’s mind (in the buddhist sense), and appreciate the beauty that surrounds you. Beautiful places are nice. But they are also everywhere. And that is the second lesson.

The third lesson: the world is silent.

Socrates once said that all learning is a fiction – that in the process we call learning, one’s soul is merely remembering things it has always known. This is how this lesson strikes me. It’s a simple lesson, perhaps one you’ve known all along – but it’s one of which your soul must be reminded.

Go outside and walk around. Take out your earbuds, forget your phone, leave the chatter on the ground. Look up.


And then keep walking.

The world is silent. It is the world to which you always have and always will belong. No matter how society, or your friends, or your own mind tries to sculpt you, the world remains silent. No matter how hard you try to be liked, to be respected, to attain any perfection that you’re utterly certain is worth striving for – the world will never give so much as a nod.

Stop thinking for a moment. Stop imagining who you are and the story of your life, why you matter to other people, why you matter to yourself. Stop commanding your humanness, and instead, listen to it.

The world is silent. The winds blow, trees sometimes waver and leaves sometimes fall, and the sun rises and sets all the same. The world says nothing to you. The world is silent. And this can be a comfort or it can be a great terror, depending on little more than one’s perspective. But it also needn’t be either. It can simply be.

And in that silence is the third and final lesson.

Link to the album

  • really enjoyed the read, definitely gave me a reminder in perspective which i greatly needed. appreciate the post, keep writing

  • Wow!
    Now, when are you going to stop bullshitting yourself? Because anyone who reads can smell your crap a mile away.

  • schwab: Thank you for the kind comment. :)

    Chucky: I’m sorry, can you explain in more detail what you mean?

  • Your blogs are carefully constructed smoke screens designed to mask the real you. You write what you think makes you sound erudite, mature, searching – when anyone who knows your story knows you are a liar who thinks nothing of screwing people over – especially when they are no longer serving your purpose. I would have more respect for your inane ramblings if they actually addressed YOU rather than put up some window dressing to disguise your moral bankruptcy and inability to actually BE a good person – or at least a less than admirable person who is searching to make that right. You keep on bullshitting yourself and those that buy this fantasy – those that don’t see these works of poorly written fiction as laughable.

    No doubt you will delete this – you do after all have a facade to maintain.

  • Chucky, thanks for answering honestly. I don’t believe I know you and to be honest, I don’t know why you’re saying the things you’re saying. But you seem intelligent and you also seem to have a lot of conviction behind your beliefs, otherwise I can’t imagine you’d want to come onto my blog to tell me this. I know this might be strange, but I invite you to correspond with me via e-mail if you’d be willing. I’ve asked some of my vocal detractors to correspond with me directly, but few have been willing. I hope you will be different. My e-mail is haseebonroad@gmail.com.


  • I also sometimes doubt the total sincerity of your “search” Haseeb. Do you sometimes not feel as you’re wanting to search instead of actually doing so?

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

  • The arrogance by which you call me seemingly intelligent is derisory.

    ‘to be honest’ That isn’t the point of this blog, is it? It’s a masturbatory, ‘look at me I’m still here’, attention seeking attempt at reclamation. But where is the reparation? Where is this soul you seem to want to tell the world you are searching for? Or that you have but just got lost somewhere in the hell that is poker? A few pictures and some prosaic hooey is not going to do it.
    Your behavior – that willingness to leech off your friends, to bet that they will injure theselves in order to make money, to throw friends under the bus when it serves you, to treat people like commodities in your small existence, to fabricate and misdirect – are YOU. They are nothing to do with poker; because you have apparently left poker and yet still.
    I would imagine no-one will take up your offer to conduct a discussion with the real Haseeb Qureshi via email because they do not wish to be complicit in your facade building.

  • Chucky,

    I meant no insult by saying you seemed intelligent; just the opposite, in fact. I’m sorry if you took that to be derisive, but that wasn’t my intention and I think you would do well not to assume that I want to attack you.

    I just want to say a few things. For one, my blog is written for me. No one else. I wanted an outlet in which to continue writing, so I made a private blog. I don’t write with anyone else in mind. So in that light, I find it strange that for all of the reasons you accuse me of writing my blog, none of them have to do with me.

    Secondly, I know what my challenge is. The narrative you seem to be presenting is one of some nefarious sociopath who is going through a charade of a rehabilitation to convince others of his wellness. Though I can understand your perspective in a way, I have to tell you that you’re wrong. You assume that everything I do and say and experience is with an audience in mind, but it isn’t. The vast majority of my journey I have been alone. I write a blog post once every week or two, and I write a lot more than what I write in my blog. You will have to submit that most of what I think about, most of what I experience, and most of what I do is not written about in this blog. It’s a public blog, no more, no less.

    Third, I know what my challenges are. I know what I am struggling with, and I know what it is to face myself and what my life is. That’s what I’ve been doing for a while now. But among the things I face, despite what you may think, is not being an evil person. I know what I have done. I know what my faults and my weaknesses have been, in all walks of life, not just in poker or what public matters you’ve been made aware of. Ultimately, I don’t answer to you. I answer to myself. And I know that among the things I face, throwing people away or not caring about others is not one of them. That has never been my problem despite what you may believe, and trust me when I say I fully understand why you believe it. And also trust me when I say that I have pondered this about myself for much longer, deeper, and knowing more about myself than you do. If anything, I chose the wrong people to protect and the wrong way to protect them. But I am not someone who throws people away. I have never done that, and many times in my life this has brought me to more trouble than I went looking for.

    I have no desire to engage in an argument with you about what I did in the poker world. But know that I understand why you choose to depict me the way you do. And also know that, knowing more about the situations, the people, and the feelings of these stories than you do, I know that you’re wrong. But in the end, they’re all complicated and bizarre stories, enough that I can’t fault anyone for seeing them differently.

    Truth be told, I probably don’t like myself either, Chucky. Maybe a little less than you don’t like me, haha; but I’ve always been someone who struggled with liking himself. But treating people like commodities is not one of the reasons why, and it never has been.

    Also, I’m a little confused when you say that nobody will be willing to correspond with me via e-mail (which isn’t true) so as to be complicit in my facade-building. E-mail is, by its nature, private. Nobody else gets to read it but me. So I’m not sure what you mean by that.

    Thank you for being civil in your reply, and it disappoints me that you will not be willing to correspond with me privately.


  • Haseeb I’m glad you’ve continued to blog, I have really enjoyed reading your introspective writing. My mind works in similar ways, minus the vocabulary hehe.

  • While you are away from poker, have you considered placing your energy into a cause bigger than yourself? A program like Teach for America could use an intelligent young man like yourself.

  • I like all the drama in the blog comments more than the blog…but yeah man keep writing!
    This proves poker players are bigger pussy bitches than a PUA coud ever be.

    I may be in France in a few weeks.

    Viki from the Pest is flying me out, not sure if you met her.

    Everhard and Billy from Austin say Hello
    Hit me up when you have time

  • scumbag

  • Hasseeb I very much appreciate your blog. You make me experience the unexperienced through your eyes. Eyes of a man seeking purpose and self-actualization. I have to say I envy your travels and wish to do likewise. Is there anyway you could give me the host’s email or contact number to this splendid farm? Cheers bud!

  • Ayşe

    The world is not so silent actually. It is just more silent that we are used to. What we are used to as humans is to be loud about what we do, fussing about things in our lives. The world is there and it’s doing its job; otherwise, we would be long dead. The world itself is like a book for those who have the patience to learn how to read and for those who try to find the time to ponder upon it. And be warned people, it is quite loud in your mind after you have learnt reading it.