I am sitting at my desk in my home office, the sun filtering through the open slats of my blinds, forming a play of light and shadow on my desk, on me. I am aware of birdsong outside my window, and imagine I sense the beat of their wings. A wise friend asked just yesterday, “How is life best lived one day at a time?"
Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron, writes that she “heard that in Tibet in the past, the only way women could attain enlightenment was by practicing in the gaps of their busy and full lives…..Any moment of ‘betweenness’-- waiting for someone, walking from one place to another, milking a cow--became a valuable chance. Instead of thinking about what just happened or planning what would happen next, they enjoyed the space to pause the conceptual mind and touch in with nowness.”
When I first learned I had cancer my mind raced, as my mother would say, “Every which away.” My thoughts moved into the immediate future and what I needed to do next, then farther outward into the beyond of an unknowable chasm that was frightening to contemplate. One evening I found myself moving backward into my past, and wondering what had been the meaning of my life until this moment. What had it stood for -- is standing for?
These questions of past and future brought forward anxiety, vulnerability, a sense that the ground was giving way beneath my feet. As I attempted to grab hold of something to thwart an emotional freefall, I began to realize that I was most comforted being in the embrace of now, focused only upon this moment rather than the monkey-mindedness of racing backward and forward in time.
I use meditative inquiry to ask, “What is this here for?” I do not ask, “Why?” -- for me a more anxiety-provoking and useless question. But to inquire, “What?” has led to deeper explorations about possibility and purpose: “If this is here right now then how might I be with it, whether a full recovery is in the offing or not?” And, “While I shall willingingly follow most directives of my medical team -- who seem to have a version of my future well in hand -- then what might I do about now, in this moment?"
My primary healing practice has become like those Tibetan women (and probably that of women in other places on the planet too), that of living in nowness. I have, of necessity needed to slow down this busy life of mine, so wonderfully so that I’ve begun to question all my doingness, going to and fro, even in this work of ministry that I so love. “What is this -- any of it -- here for?”
Fully being with the world as it is, and seeing what kindness or good I might contribute to this moment has been most helpful -- especially when the world out beyond my personal experiences seem increasingly fraught, increasingly dire.
Noticing in this moment my Self, the life around me, people, nature, sounds, light, the feel of things has been an anchor. A kind thought or appreciation about someone or something, I believe, has the possibility to co-create a drop of something new and good as it emanates from my being.
And yes, there are spaces when I notice that I’m feeling pretty crummy and I am simply being with that as well. Noticing, one day at a time, now, in this present moment.