Friday, October 21, 2011

A lesson in being present (Originally published 9/21/11)

How foolish we are, as a species, generally speaking? We go about our lives believing we have unlimited time on this earth, believing we're somehow entitled to the privilege of simply breathing and existing, believing our pain, joy, circumstances, you name it, to be greater than that of others. How is this so, when in truth, all we really have is the present moment and the very breath we are drawing in it? Moreover, that breath is the same as the one everyone else is drawing too. Fools we are!

I do not set myself apart. I am among the billions who feel a sense of entitlement to this life, with all its luxuries and abundance. I find myself all too often caught in the trap of believing things will last, indefinitely if not forever, even though I completely subscribe to the fact that this is a falsehood. Though objectively speaking I know myself to be inherently no better nor worse than any other of my fellow humans, in moments my own experience is the biggest, most all-encompassing, all-pervading matter in existence. And then something happens. . . a turn of events, a passage in a book, a word from a friend, and my perspective shifts back into focus. I am reminded that it has been my ego clouding my judgment, obscuring my focus, temporarily blinding me from what is real.

What's real is yesterday I served as foreperson on a jury that found a young man guilty of obtaining his citizenship in the United States through fraud. The fraud was checking "no" to a box that he should have checked "yes" to. Had he completed the form a week earlier in his life, "no" would have been the correct answer, and he would have retained the right to remain in the country where he has been since six years of age, the country where is life and family reside. Later I learned that someone I love dearly lost someone that they love dearly, a woman who has known me since birth and who passed suddenly, without specific illness, without any drama. Yes, she was elderly and had lived a full life, but the point is simply how from one moment to the next everything changed without warning. Then I went on to find out this morning that my treasured friend, a role model, a fairy grandmother of sorts, is facing down a battle with cancer for the second time in a year.

None of these three people was likely going about their days, breathing each breath, with the thought in the front of their minds that it could be their last or that their life could dramatically change in the blink of an eye. I am not suggesting this foreboding mentality as a means of living a happy and a healthy life. What I am suggesting is that we, and that includes me, would all be best served to incorporate more presence of mind and gratitude into our everyday. As the saying goes, "be here now". (Thank you Ram Dass!) While I sat with C. today and told him about the events that had transpired, our conversation meandered to a point where he shared that he is bound and determined to give his full attention to whoever or whatever he was focused on in any moment. At that particular moment it was me, so when I inquired after his plans for the day and another friend, he responded by saying he wasn't thinking of any of that. He was thinking of me. He was there with me in that moment and nothing else mattered.

That's music to any lover's ears, of course, to know that your beloved is giving you their full and undivided attention. Yet, today, for me there was more to his words than that. It was the recognition that while there are moments for multi-tasking and there are certain roles and responsibilities we have that never fall away, that doesn't preclude us from making the conscious choice to say I am going to focus on the present 100%. The present really is everything. It is all that we have. At some point we will all see our last sunrise, dance our last dance, swim in the ocean for the last time, gaze into our lover's eyes and kiss their lips for a final time, give our children one last embrace. It is not for us to know when the last of anything will be. It is for us to make each and every one of them count for precisely that reason. Many of us believe this in theory. We've read it in some new age/spiritual/self help book or heard it spoken in some similar seminar. But theory and practice are so often different. In this case, I don't believe they should be. So in my life I vow to bridge that divide, to eliminate the difference, and to be as present to every precious, blessed moment as possible. If that is my life's work then it will be a worthwhile one in my esteem.

My humble appreciation and abiding gratitude for all the ways in which the Universe and the messengers it has sent have shared this lesson with me.

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