“Nothing truly real is forgotten eternally, because everything real comes from eternity and goes to eternity.”
― Paul Tillich, The Eternal Now
Words cannot express the “eternal now,” although Tillich valiantly tried! Life in this moment – this moment – this moment – this moment, is completely rich, colorful, deep, ecstatic, and real. No, that’s not it.
A Buddhist friend and I spoke about our meditation practices. I tried to explain how I was seeing/living life these days, these precious days. I feel as if my eyes are wide open, as if I am here, now, and that this is good. He listened, quietly, without speaking. Then, he said: “I think you are experiencing what the teachers call, ‘awareness.’
Life is a series of “moments,” after all. Poets know this. I have in mind a collection of poems I call, “Moments,” those tingly, beautiful, once-in-a-lifetime moments when, fully alive, I was witness to something beautiful, and fleeting, and wonderful. There might have been pain in those moments. Maybe there was confusion in one of those moments. Or joy. Or light. Or sadness. Movement, or stillness. In my memory, each of these “moments” is recorded as if it were a still-frame… forever.
I have missed so many of those moments! Haven’t you? I’ve missed those moments by going full-steam ahead into my busy schedule, my mind filled with important things. I’ve missed those moments by worrying about what I said yesterday, and thinking about what I will say tomorrow. I’ve missed those moments when, wrapped in anxiety, waking at night, I think again about something that has already passed, some encounter, some person, some wrong that I have known. When I know it now – perhaps not in memory, but in my feelings – I have missed the moment. I have missed the moment – not by conscious choice, but by the habit of my mind.
Sigh… we are so human, aren’t we? So limited, and so free! At least – I am.
The great gift of this time in my life is that I can be present to my world, to my life, to the blessed people who are the gifts of each day. I can be present to the changing light, to the evening coming on, to a bird flying from its nest for the first time, its mother scolding and encouraging, a few feet away. I can be present to another’s story, to the look on their face. I can witness the pain of another – see it in them, hear the break in their voice, and grieve with it – as they honor me with their story. I can be there, now.
I can have my sadness as well as my joy. I can hear the hum of traffic and the calling of the owl in the distance. I can smell the sweet fragrance of a flower, and see the light change from dusk to dark. I can see a small and strong emotion mark your face, your beloved face, for a moment. I can cry, and be ok with it. I can be angry, and be ok with it. This too shall pass!
Life has not always been this glittering, this sparkling, this rich, for me. I have struggled and I have even suffered. I have lost, and I have lost time by looking too often for the wins. I have been deeply depressed, and I have been filled with sorrow. I have lost days, worrying over what I have said, and how to rectify it. I have hated and I have loved. But I have not always been present to this one life, this one gift, this one moment.
Here it is: now…