I know it's a cliche, but I feel like life is passing me by at an alarming rate. Wasn't it.
I know it’s a cliche, but I feel like life is passing me by at an alarming rate. Wasn’t it just the holidays last week? Do I really have another birthday coming up? For that matter, when did Kurt Cobain’s kid turn into a teenager? And when the hell did high school boys start dressing like they’re in Poison??? How can the 80s be back? They barely just finished. What the…? Where am I?
When I’m not standing around stunned at the fleeting nature of life, I’m busy regretting all the stupid, thoughtless or embarrassing things I’ve done in the past, or planning for and fearing the future. (I’m terrified of death, illness and discomfort in general.)
The fact that I stand half-mired in yesterday while striving for and cowering from tomorrow means I pretty much miss out on today. And before I know it, life will be over and I’ll be like, “Shit, I missed it.”
So I’m vowing to live in the moment in the coming year (like I vow every year, but this time I’m really going to do it). This is, of course, known as mindfulness. But I need a little primer.
The late Chogyam Trungpa, founder of the Shambhala Sun magazine, wrote in his book The Heart Of The Buddha, “We see ourselves as having a history and a future, and here we are in our big-deal present. But if we look at ourselves clearly in this very moment, we see we are just grains of sand.”
Okay, so. I’m an insignificant grain of sand. Now what?
Some articles suggest that living in the moment means living like there’s no tomorrow. Right. So I’ll quit my job, drink my face off, smoke like a chimney, eat like a pig and burn every bridge, then spend every night hiding in the closet because Fuck!? There’s no tomorrow? Scary!
Other suggestions come in the probably well-meaning but actually self-indulgent trappings of New Age music, sandboxes for the top of your desk and “gratitude journals.” Proponents of this approach suggest lighting candles and having a bubble bath. But I don’t need to be more self-indulgent. I need to be less self-indulgent.
Even I know that mindfulness isn’t about some cheap pseudo-escape. It’s about being in your reality, as that reality is.
Let’s go back to Trungpa. He writes, “In the technique of mindfulness of mind, it is traditionally recommended that you be aware of each single-shot perception of mind as thinking: I am thinking I hear a sound.’ I am thinking I smell a scent.’ I am thinking I feel hot.’ I am thinking I feel cold.’ Each one of these is a total approach to experience – very precise, very direct, one single movement of mind.”
So… I am thinking that I am typing quotes from The Heart Of The Buddha. Be. Aware. Of. Every. Moment. Wait! I think I just missed a moment! Crap. Can we go back? No. That’s the whole point.
Given that my reality is a cakewalk compared to that of people in much of the world, this shouldn’t be as difficult as it is. But I’m trying. I’m aware right now of my fingers on the keyboard, the chair under my ass and the… need to come up with a third thing to be aware of so I can finish this sentence.
Well, it’s a start. And that’s it. No promise of enlightenment or sudden, shocking realization. That’s reality. And reality should be enough.
Trungpa says, “Mindfulness of mind suggests a sense of presence and a sense of accuracy in terms of being there. You are there, therefore you can’t miss yourself. If you are not there, then you might miss yourself. But that also would be a double take: if you realize you are not there, that means you are there.”
So, that answers that question. Sort of.