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Friday, September 5, 2014

THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE


Recently my mother asked me, "Of all the times in your life, which was your very favorite?"

I thought about it for a minute before I said: "Those times in which that question was never raised." What did I mean by this? Life is best when you are so in the moment, so absorbed in living, that your mind is not drawn to the past or leaping into the future. You are present here and now.

Imagine when you were a kid, "in your prime," and everyone has their time to shine. For many it's in high school and college, once the awkwardness has diminished and confidence has emerged to take its place. Imagine as a senior in high school reminiscing on how great it was back in the 2nd grade. How uncool! Life's highlights are clearly not spent thinking about the past or pondering the future.

Of course there were eras that, looking back, I favored above others. When I was a Little-Leaguer and our team made it all the way to the Regionals in Arizona. The summer of '86 was good to me. Even stars like Bryan Adams had his "Summer of '69." Of course parts of high school were fun. And then there was that six-month stint in Brazil, when I wrote my first novel. Others I won't go into here...

What do all of those time have in common? I was fully present in the moment, in the living of it, whatever it was that I was doing. Of course it helps when you're doing something really different from your norm, rather than just washing the dishes or taking out the trash (which these days I seem to be doing all the time!). But does this need to be the case. Do you need to do something extraordinary to feel extraordinary?

The truth is that all life's experiences are precious, even in their variation. An old Zen adage says: "Do everything as though it were the most important thing in the world." Because it is. In the grand scheme, everything is as important as everything else (immensely so, or totally insignificant, depending on the view you take). And beyond the personal distinction of good and bad, meaningful and meaningless, there is just being. Which is where the party is really at.

I once heard it said that "There is the life you live, and the life that you learn from when it's done."

Am I, at 41, in life's second stage, where the focus is on reflection? Are all the biggest experiences in the past? I have elected not to get married or have kids, so those aren't events that will likely be a part of my future. I don't have a traditional job (of the 401-K type) so retirement is unlikely. What's the next traditionally big event? Death? You laugh, but it's true.

Of course, the scriptures speak of Self-realization. But that's not really an event, since the you, the true You, the Self, does not change in the moment you are realized. You just wake up and see Reality for what it is. Nothing changes on the outside. You often just continue your life, going about your business (and yes the plate washing and trash emptying, too), but you're in on the secret. Self-realization is cool, but it's not "event" to look forward to. Oh well.

There is a bright side, however. Without big times lying in the foreseeable future, and reluctant as I am to live in the past (it makes me feel so old!), I focus ever more on the now. Even moreso than when life was so interesting that I was caught up in the living. Because in living life's manifold events, you're living outside yourself, attention focused on externalities (like baseballs and Brazilian beach bodies). You are immersed in the dream life, which changes so swiftly, is ultimately disappointing, and finally ends.

But what is that which does not change? Ah, and so we're back to the witness. Consciousness. Your true nature. And since consciousness doesn't change, adhering to it allows you to transcend time. To be Timeless. Has a nice sorta ring to it, wouldn't you say? Be timeless and free. There really is no way else to be.

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