Friday, May 29, 2015

Eyes on the Path

"Here I am"
"my meditation garden"

All week long we have been away from our desert home visiting our son and daughter-in-law and meeting our new grandson. Throughout our visit I have realized how far away my life is from those days when we were having children and raising babies. It is such a daunting task to start a family, so many questions about how to properly care for the child, what to do to prepare for his future. It's exhausting and demanding. 

This morning I realized that if my son and his wife spent all their time thinking about the years that lay ahead of them and all they had yet to do to raise their firstborn child, they would become overwhelmed by the burden of it all. This morning I offered a little piece of "fatherly-grandfatherly" advice: breathe deeply and take life as it comes, just simply focus on the present one step at a time, and all will be well. 

In fact, their new baby may be offering them a great lesson about life, a lesson any single one of us can learn. Babies have no plans for the future, they don't focus on memories of days gone by, they simply live in the present.  If you look at their eyes, babies are always focusing on the moment, always embracing the now, learning from all the wonderful surprises each new moment of life is offering them.

What a great lesson for us all.

At this "graduation" time of year I have been listening to little excerpts from various commencement speeches given to college graduates throughout the country; and as I see it, almost all of these speeches offer some real bad advice - often telling students to "look toward the future, keep your eyes on the prize; and make the world into what you want it to be."

From my experience, whenever you focus on the future with the goal of fashioning the world according to your own agenda you will inevitably be on a slippery slope, on the road to failure and disappointment. 

I say, instead,  keep your eyes off the prize and on the path. 

I think of the many hikes we have taken in the desert where we live. If I even begin to think about the destination, how many miles yet to be traveled, how difficult and arduous the terrain ahead may be or how hot the temperatures may get, I get so discouraged that I want to stop and turn back. So I have to take my eyes off the prize and focus on the path, embracing the moment as it is revealed to me.

When I do that, only then do I notice the beauty along the way, cacti in bloom, a cooling palm tree where I can sit and rest, a desert squirrel or roadrunner scampering in the bush alongside me. 

As he was nearing the end of his days, the renowned monk and mystic, Thomas Merton, tapped into the wisdom he had gleaned throughout his life and observed:

Over the years, the one thing that has grown most noticeably 
in my spiritual life is 
the grip the 'present' has on me - 
the reality of now - the unreality of all the rest.

Such great wisdom--

There is no past, those days are over;  and when the future comes it is "now," so there is no future. The past and future aren't real and yet so many people spend most of their precious time living in that unreality, thinking about what they might have been or keeping their eyes on the prize so they can fashion a future according to what they want it to be.

The only reality is the present. Somehow when we are newborn babies we understand this wisdom and then as we get older we gradually forget it.  

As I get older I want to open my heart to the present once again allowing it to have a grip on me - my eyes off the prize and my eyes on the path.

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