We watched a movie Saturday night called, The Departure. At one point the main character said about his deceased father, “Is this all there is to show for his life? A couple of boxes?” This made me ask myself, “What do I have to show for my life?” The more that I wake up spiritually, the more I am sure that life isn’t about leaving some physical/tangible thing. I think the only questions are: Have I been authentic? Have I been honest? Have I expressed the Truth as it has been revealed to me? Have I been interested in the web of life (the seen and the unseen) that I am such an integral part of? Have I taken the time to listen; to my deepest Self, to the deepest Self in others? Am I truly present for my life, now?
When I woke up Sunday morning, an old friend had sent me (by email) the obituary of a woman who I used to be very close to, but had lost contact with when I moved away from the seacoast 20 years ago. It said that she had died of a heart-attack while on a ski vacation with her sons and that her memorial service was being held that day at 2pm in Portsmouth, NH. Katy and I were the same age. I looked at her photograph and read the brief description of her “accomplishments” as an artist. But it wasn’t really her art itself that made Katy so unique. It was the way that she painted, taught, cooked, talked, listened. …lived.
Katy lived in the present moment. I remember taking walks with her (which were always meant for exercise in my goal-oriented mind) and being so annoyed because every little thing she noticed was interesting and fascinating to her, and she had the audacity to stop and look, when we were supposed to be getting a cardio-vascular workout! I didn’t understand her wisdom back then….it looked like foolishness to me.
As I sat in the filled-to-capacity South Church yesterday, I was reminded of the great wisdom of Katy Baucke and as I drove back home (about 2 hrs into my trip) I noticed my old habit of thinking about what time it would be when I got back, how the roads might be, what time I’d be getting to bed, and I stopped it and thought, “How can I be present for life right now?” I realized that I was hungry. I pulled into a sweet little town in NH and had dinner by myself. I’ve never done that before. I could feel my friend smiling at me.
“If you’re like most of us, since you were born, you’ve been running. Now it’s a strong habit that many generations of your ancestors also had before you and transmitted to you–the habit of running, being tense, and being carried away by many things, so that your mind is not totally, deeply, peacefully in the present moment. You get accustomed to looking at things in a very superficial way and being carried away by wrong perceptions and the negative emotions that result. …the practice is to train yourself to stop—stop running after all these thing. Even if you don’t have irritation, anger, fear or despair, you’re still running with this or that project, or this or that line of thinking, and you’re not at peace. So…train yourself to be here, to be relaxed, to stop, to come back to the wonders of the present moment.”
page 79 From the book, FEAR: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm, by Thich Nhat Hanh