Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Graduation

a flowering tree along the desert trail stands against the blue sky

We are right in the middle of graduation season - caps, gowns, diplomas, eager faces, and of course the famous graduation speeches.

Lately I have been paying special attention to the "words of wisdom" that are being offered to all those  graduating classes sitting in football fields and school gymnasia throughout this country.  For the most part, graduation speakers give some pretty similar advice: "Go out into the future, and fulfill your potential, make your dreams come true." 

As I have listened to and read snippets of the many graduation speeches of the season, I realized that, twenty years ago I would have probably given the same advice to the eager youth who are about to go out and make their mark on the world. I think today my advice would be far different.

As I have examined the course of my life, I realize that I have spent the better part of it preparing, planning and looking toward fulfilling some future aspiration. At each of my various "graduations," I was eager to go out into my future, and live out my dreams. 

When I graduated from High School, I looked forward to my life in college. When I was in college, I looked to my future as a seminary student. When I was in seminary, I dreamed about the day when I would be ordained a priest. After I was ordained, the prospect of even more education loomed as a goal for me. As a parish priest,  I looked toward what the next steps might be in my future career - a bigger parish, perhaps a bishop's hat?  

I was always thinking about what I yet could be, looking toward making my dreams come true. And when my hoped-for dreams weren't  as  exciting or fulfilling as I had hoped,  I would then find myself nostalgically remembering the good old days of what used to be.

As I have examined the course of my life,  I have come to realize that I have spent so much time looking to make my future dreams come true (or wallowing in the memories of what used to be),  that I have often missed what "is." 

My eyes have so often been "on the prize" that I have been unable to recognize that the real gift of being alive is only unveiled in the present moment. At this stage of my life when there are no more graduations left for me, I have finally come to learn my most important lesson -  "Be present to each and every moment, live in the "now." Surrender to the present moment, it is here that all your dreams come true."

As  I walk along a desert trail, a blossoming tree stands before me. I actually take the time to stop and notice it's stunning beauty against the desert sky. I take a picture.  The Divine Presence is "utterly inhabiting" the sacred "now."

The  Buddha taught:

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future,
concentrate the mind on the present moment

These  are  the words of wisdom I would offer to graduates today.





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