Present Moment…Next Please


One of the challenges of my life is that I tend to spend my thought time in the past or the future.  Millions of self help books (including the Rule of Life book I am writing!) will encourage being mindful of one’s thoughts; and our Buddhist brethren have a lot to teach us about practicing that great skill.

As a member of the planetary aristocracy we call “the west” I spend most of my time tending to my possessions, regretting not having past possessions, imagining owning future possessions, envying the possessions of others and working hard to earn the money for the possessions I now or will soon own (I have seen a wok on line I covet mightily) or building a reputation which will bring me to the next job which will bring me more money and more possessions.  This admission does not make me worldly nor does it make me shallow or materialistic.  It makes me honest – at least with myself and some readers.

The more dangerous neighborhood of my mind, through which one is best not to wander at night alone, is that of regret and envy.  Life lived as a single man (just for now, I hope!) means that I have lots of time to think.  I think in my garden while Kai plays with sticks, carefully arranging them in order of size and then bringing me the one which I am obediently to throw. Mornings and evenings allow me an average of 5 hours to think.  Sometimes that is enough and at times I need even more.  But the quantity of time to consider one’s life and its place in the world is not as important as the quality of that thought – and here we get to the rub.
The two great cancers of the spiritual life are nostalgia and fantasy.  This is because the molten core of the spiritual life is truth.  Pilot asks scripture’s most honest question and Jesus answers it in silence, by the integrity of the following and final days of his life.  Nostalgia is a spiritual cancer because it inspires the lies of the past whereas fantasy inspires the lies of the present and the future. The church, as we know it will inevitably implode and become something new precisely because its leaders cannot see the nostalgia and fantasy in vestry meetings and standing committee meetings. Satan does his best work by way of our blindness to untruth. Satan does his best work in me by suggesting that I believe the thoughts in my head.  They are just thoughts.

What I love about my black lab Kai is that he remains always in the present moment and is always focused on what is true.  For Kai, this river in Colorado, this stick recently rescued from its watery pathway, this man to which he is heading with assurance that the stick will be thrown back into the river for another 4 minutes of bliss – these are true because they are now.

All we have is this moment.  My challenge is to live it by plucking the weeds of nostalgia and fantasy so that the fruit of truth can be born. What things I have mean nothing.  They will all too soon be in yard sales and the homes of my family when my body gives up its spirit.  My job and reputation are just how I pay for my life-bills – they are not my life.  My life is my ability to stay in truth, within the present moment.  My dog Kai models that for me.



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