On New Year’s Eve, I had an appointment with my ophthalmologist. From him I learned that my family physician, at the age of 67, had died suddenly and unexpectedly the day before. My ophthalmologist was shaken to the point of deciding to leave his own practice.
We never know when our conversation with someone will be the last one we have. We never know when our current experience will be the last time we do something.
Does this moment not deserve our full presence? Can we stop behaving as though the present is simply a stepping stone to something else? Why do we squander this precious present moment?
“We say,” Max Strom writes, “‘our life is precious,’ but on the other hand, ‘I have time to kill.’”
Strom continues, “Our society more and more is spending their life span on time killers, on entertainment, and entertainment is not happiness. I think our society now is having trouble distinguishing between the two. If you knew you had one year to live, I don’t think you’d spend it on four hours of watching TV a day (the American average), two hours of video games and about two hours on social media. You wouldn’t do it. So I think the second imperative is understand that every second of your time is a second of your lifespan.”
Strom points out the symptoms of our choice to escape the present; but again, why do we squander the precious present?
Cheri Huber provocatively asserts, “Being present in Life is effortless and it is the only thing that is.” We can sense the truth of what Huber writes and still find it difficult to be present.
We all have a voice in our head whose full-time job is to maintain our ego. This ego maintenance voice continually tries to draw our attention to the past or an imaginary future and, in the process, generates worry, anxiety, and fear. Our ego’s thinking constantly judges and evaluates us, others, and our current experience. How can we possibly be present in the face of such an onslaught?
When we are not present in the moment, we are selfish. The patient who is running late because he stopped for a cup of coffee has little appreciation of the cascading impact that his coffee break has on running an efficient office. The patient who has eschewed responsibility for his own health might find fault with his health provider where there is none.
While we use our own time frivolously, it takes willful blindness to fail to see how we are supported by others. The world gives us far more than we give back, and yet we gripe and complain. And as we do, we squander the present moment. What if our griping is unwarranted?
Last month, a night ride home from the airport was a harrowing drive on a snowy interstate. Complaints against the road conditions and the seeming absence of snow plows filled my mind. I passed cars that had driven off the side of the road, the consequence of driving faster than conditions allowed, I assumed. I arrived home without incident, and I was shocked to see seven inches of snow in my driveway. I had been complaining about what was unplowed and failed to notice what was plowed.
Whatever is, the ego makes a mighty effort to find something to struggle against, denying the many ways we are supported and cared for. The ego’s goal is to do as little as possible while getting much as it thinks it so richly deserves. Gratitude is not a word in the ego’s dictionary.
How wisely are we using our time this moment? There is an alternative to the ego’s self-centeredness. George Bernard Shaw wrote:
This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
The truth of that statement is amazing. Some hours I sink into my ailments and grievances; they seem so real. But when I start again to “chop wood, carry water” it is as if my grievances never existed. Truly, the repetitive thinking of our ego’s maintenance voice holds our grievances in place like a gravitational field. Why would we value something that is so destructive?
The answer to my question lies within. In the moment that we identify with our ego, we allow the destructive waste of that moment’s potential. We will not be present when we value our ego more than Love.
“You will identify with what you think will make you safe. Whatever it may be, you will believe that it is one with you. Your safety lies in truth, and not in lies. Love is your safety. Fear does not exist. Identify with love, and you are safe. Identify with love, and you are home. Identify with love, and find your Self,” observes A Course in Miracles.
What is life asking of us at this moment? Michael Leach offers this powerful testimony about how Love brings us to the present moment:
I’ve been caretaker to my wife, Vickie, who has what doctors call Alzheimer’s, for more than 10 years. I have been learning day by day that … wanting what Love wants me to be moment by moment is the only thing that saves me from dwelling for the next 10 years on what our life will be like next year. I am discovering, despite my worst efforts, that spiritual love converts to humor, not anger, when Vickie puts my keys in a sudsy pot. It becomes kind eyes when she looks at me with confused eyes, a light heart when she has an embarrassing accident, and caressing fingers when she is afraid.
The universal power of Love flows through us when we allow it. When we believe in and identify with Love, that is what we experience; and we use our time wisely. When we identify with the ego, we experience fear; and we use our time poorly. This moment, now, is the only time we can make the choice between Love and fear.