We were at the park for one of the hundreds of festivals in New Orleans when we spotted a giant balloon slide at the corner of Napoleon Ave. and Magazine. Our son and daughter-in-law escorted our grandson across the busy intersection so he could have a go on the slide. He paused reluctantly for just a moment at the top, and then laughed all the way down the slide. He was as much “in the present moment” as one can be. His whole body experienced the delight of falling safely through space. He was fully in Life.
There are so many times when I get caught in my mind’s endless stream of thoughts and totally miss out on such moments of delight. My body might be in the present moment but I don’t know it, for I am far away. You know as well as I do that the mind loves to spring forward into the future and backwards into the past. The mind remembers what was and creates imagined futures. It doesn’t seem to naturally exist in the present moment.
During meditation this morning I was noticing how the moments were falling away, one by one, like a stream rushing past me. I became awake to how life is always rushing past. Every single moment is over and then can never be retrieved. I noticed that yesterday is gone forever and there is nothing I can do about that. For a few minutes it was like I was sitting on a ledge and each breath was “this moment,” and then it would fall off that ledge into oblivion, never to return.
As I type these words I am right here/right now. I feel my fingertips on the keys. I let the stream of ideas course through me and instantly turn into words for this blog. And then the moment passes and those words are behind me, and the empty space awaits the next stream of words/images/ideas. And suddenly I become shocked by the suddenness of the passing of the moments of my life. There is a kind of pain in this recognition that my life is being lost every second, and if I am not awake to the moment I am in then it is lost to unawareness and gone forever.
Today this makes me want to be Sam at the top of that slide. I don’t want to stay at the top wondering what the next experience might be like (my mind just loves to create alternative futures and get lost in wondering what might happen). And I can’t go back to what has happened before. I want to put my legs in front of me and fall into THIS moment, make that journey right now, and feel the whole present moment with all of my body and being.
Just like Sam didn’t know what was going to happen next before he took that leap of faith, I do not really have any idea about what is coming. But I really do want to hop out there past my fears and leap onto the slide of life. I want to take the risk of being in my life as it is rushing past and not miss it as it tumbles into oblivion. Since I am awake for a moment and aware that I can never get any of it back, I really want to come fully alive and dive into this life as it rushes past.
Please Life, do not pass me by. Do whatever it takes to keep me awake because I really want to be in William’s life. No one else can have this right-now experience but me, and if I miss it something wonderful will be lost. Lord knows it all rushes past too quickly anyway. So here I go down my slide. I finish this blog. I post it and send it to anyone who is reading today. And I head out the door into my day, the one no one else can have.
Life is rushing past all of us and then it is gone for good. May we have the presence of mind to be as awake as we can be today, and if we are fully blessed, may we laugh and cry and actually have our moments as completely as Sam did on that slide. Here we go.
For more stories like this see Monks in the World: Seeking God in a Frantic Culture, now available as a Kindle book.