Where are you? Here.
What time is it? Now.
What’s the most important thing? This moment.
These are the three simple, yet profound questions my dad asked and answered for himself often. It’s funny how simple some of the most profound things in life tend to be.
After reading Eckhart Tolle’s book, The Power of Now, my dad became obsessed with “staying in the now,” as he called it. It was equal parts illuminating and frustrating.
Yes, frustrating! Imagine trying to make plans for dinner and instead of receiving suggestions, all you hear is, “I don’t know, I’m enjoying right now.”
Food doesn’t just appear. Plans have to be made. Action must be taken.
I watched as this focus on living in the moment wrapped him gently in an invincible sense of peace throughout the most difficult circumstances I’ve ever seen anyone put through. And it is only now, amidst my current challenges, that I’ve experienced this kind of peace and have a more concrete understanding of this lesson to carry with me on my life’s journey.
Illness has a way of making us realize that we can only do one thing at a time, and that the present moment is the only place where our attention can dwell in peace.
This year, for the first 4th of July in many years, I fully appreciated were I was and what I was doing. I allowed myself to experience the day just as it was. Not wishing I could be somewhere else. Not thinking it should be some other way. Not imagining what would make it better. Not dreaming up some pie in the sky notion of how it should be.
Not to say that I didn’t think of some other possibilities at all. I mean, let’s be realistic…
I’m sick which made it impossible to participate in any of the traditional festivities, and I’m human (as my wise mom reminded me one day as I was fretting about not being able to stay in the moment as much as I’d like) which means I can’t do anything perfectly just like anyone else.
But as my mind wandered, the thoughts of things I wished I could do didn’t linger, and I didn’t dwell on them. That’s the difference, I think. It’s not about needing battle the thoughts or try to avoid them, but about simply acknowledging them when they appear and not allowing ourselves to get stuck in the sticky web they work so diligently to create.
Noticing the thoughts and kindly turning in a new direction, the direction of the present moment and the wonder it holds, created space for me to enjoy everything that made that 4th of July day feel special: my brother’s company and the way he made me laugh, the delicious food he grilled with care, and the experiments we concocted for the only kind of childish fireworks (if you can even call them fireworks) that my sensory overloaded brain could stand.
We’re all physically in the moment, every minute of every day, whether we realize it or not. And whether or not we do so consciously, we all get to answer these three simple questions for ourselves each day. So why not ask and answer them today on purpose?
Where are you? What time is it? What’s the most important thing?