We keep getting older. From the moment we’re born, each day we’re older than we were the day before. This is vivid if you’re around a baby or a little child. If you’ve lived awhile, you can observe the changes in yourself in the mirror, in photos.
Aging — even when we’re young — is our friend. To those of us, I mean, who are trying to become more conscious. Perhaps more at peace. Aging accompanies us everywhere we go. And so (like much of ordinary life) growing steadily older can be a helpful teacher. It can enable us to open our eyes more fully on the truth of things.
This very moment is all we’ve got.
The truth of things: What do I mean by that? I’m saying we don’t have forever. For anything. This is not intended to heap on more discomfort and anxiety; many have plenty of that already. What I’m saying is meant to land us in reality.
That word reality tends to be surrounded by unwelcome associations and feelings. Isn’t that telling? The last thing many a person wants is to be reminded of reality. And yet what gets called spiritual liberation is about coming at last to rest in what is real. Imagine: that relaxing into the truth of things, without recoiling, is utterly peace-inducing.
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Many enter the spiritual life imagining that being awake is a condition of otherworldliness — an escape from pain. The wish to feel better may be why they got interested in spirituality in the first place. We’re so used to thinking that “reality” is the enemy, the cause of enduring human pain. The culprit never was reality: it was — it is — what the thinker does with life that generates the torment. What waking up delivers is an end to the particular pain inflicted by the mind.
We know life will come to an end at some point, however infrequently we let ourselves look that truth in the face. We notice, for instance, that particular periods of our lives have unwound and become a part of the recollected past. If you’ve lived long enough, you’ve observed this.
Back to reality. We don’t have forever to get real with ourselves. To get in touch with what really matters to us. To make changes, where those are possible, in how we live. When the moment comes when death is staring us down (not “if,” dear heart, but when), then it will all be blindingly clear. However belatedly. If only, a person laments.
“If only” what? If only I had slowed down long enough to be truthful with myself about what really matters to me. To see how I was doing things I didn’t really want to do . . . because I “had” to. If only I’d told that person how much I love them. That I was sorry.
If only I’d paid more attention to my sweet dog. To the people and things that are dear to me. If only I had slowed down every now and again to let myself feel all of this.
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Brevity is our best friend, if we will allow it to be. For decades I told myself “I don’t have time. I’ll get to it tomorrow.” But tomorrow never came. I mean, we don’t LIVE tomorrow.
We live now. All the living we’ve ever done happened in some now. This very moment is all we’ve got. Ever. Let the aging face in the mirror remind you of the things you deeply value. Don’t make yourself sorry. You’re alive! Live as though you’re alive, as though being real with yourself, and with others, is a profound blessing.
And who knows? Maybe it will wake you up.