Monday, April 28, 2014

No Tomorrow

-At the Desert Retreat House-

A few days ago I received an invitation to attend a "Planning for Tomorrow Conference,"  a day-long financial planning seminar, offering advice and strategies for assuring financial security in retirement.  

At this stage of my life I found the invitation to be somewhat entertaining -  if I haven't yet prepared for retirement I am likely to be in some fairly serious trouble. But for some reason, the very idea of "planning for tomorrow" just really struck me. Maybe, because for most of my life, so much of what I did was planning for tomorrow. In fact I think lots of people today are consumed by and obsessed with making plans and developing strategies for the future. 

When I was in parish ministry we were always strategizing for the future. How can we develop the church? What will the school be like ten years from now? I often found it somewhat humorous, if not disconcerting, to talk with parents of 4 year-old preschool children and discover that,  not only were these parents squirreling away some serious money for their kids' "college fund,"  but they were also deciding on what high schools and colleges they wanted their children to eventually attend - talk about "planning for tomorrow," yikes!

I have now come to that stage of my life where I no longer engage in future strategizing. While I can somewhat see the advantage of preparing for future directions in life,  I am also very convinced that in many cases, all the "planning for tomorrow" is often a useless drain of energy, robbing people of the joy of living every day. 

The truth is that we really never have a "tomorrow." We can remember the past but we can't live in the past.  And when tomorrow comes it's no longer tomorrow - it is the present. There is no tomorrow. All we ever have is "now." 

In my reading yesterday I came across a few poems that helped me focus on being here in the "now." The first poem is from the Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh. I often find the teaching of this unassuming monk to be so very powerful - so simple and yet so profound. In his little poem, Journey, he writes:

Here are words written down -
footprints on the sand,
cloud formations.
I'll be gone.

This morning as I sit and reflect at the beginning of this day, I read this poem over and over again, and I cherish its wisdom. Everything I do or say or write or think today immediately becomes the past -over and done. There is no tomorrow. All I have is this moment, the present, the "now" in which to live fully.

I came across a second poem yesterday written by Janice McLaughin, a Maryknoll nun, titled, Flight.

Flapping, flapping, flapping
Not yet ready to fly.
Anchored by too much- 
Doubts,  fears,  expectations.
The past is a chain
Holding me down.
The future is a vision
Not yet clear
There is only today.
Today I will soar.

The morning sun has once again risen majestically over the eastern mountains, bathing the desert in the indescribable beauty of Spring. No future planning for me. Today is the gift.  I'm here "now."

Today I will soar. 

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