- At the Desert Retreat House -
Yesterday morning, just after the sun had come up over a sleepy little lakeside village outside Roanoke Virginia, a local news reporter was conducting a very mundane and lighthearted TV interview about late-summer tourism. Everything was going exactly according to plan and then “in a flash” everything changed. A crazed gunman came out of the shadows, shooting down the young reporter and her camera person, killing both of them instantly.
Throughout the day yesterday the media was “reeling” over that brutal attack and the unexpected death of two vital, beautiful young people so full of potential - their lives and their careers suddenly ending before they even had a chance to begin.
Some have said that the death of those two young people was a perfect example of how unfair life is, they had so much life yet to live, so much to give and they were “cut down in their prime - some even blamed God for letting this happen.
As I see it, the incident yesterday had nothing to do with fairness or unfairness, it simply is a reminder to us all about the nature of what life “is.” There is no past and a future never comes for any of us, all any of us ever has is “now.” Yesterday provided me with yet another “wake up call” about the importance of embracing the moment on my path of life.
Eckhart Tolle puts it this way:
There never was a time when your life was not now and there never will be.
Nothing ever happened in the past, it happened in the now.
Nothing will ever happen in the future, it will happen in the now.
The wisdom of this seems so obvious and yet it is a lesson that very few people seem to be able to embrace in today’s culture of “great expectation” as we bask in the remembrance of past accomplishment and strategize for success in a future that will never come.
There is a wisdom saying attributed to the Buddha:
You only lose what you cling to
I actually know plenty of people who have already lost their lives and they aren’t even dead yet, for most of my life I was one of these people. I was always preparing for that next big move in life- the next step up the career ladder, the better job and the bigger house, so much energy living in a future that would never happen.
I also know people who are well into their seventies who spend most of their days clinging to remembrances of the success of the “good old days” or living in a memory of regrets over the failures of the “bad old days." And sometimes these same "older" people spend much of their later years preparing for a future legacy to be left behind, squirreling away their money or worrying about what people will think about them when they’re gone – “what will they inscribe on my tombstone?”
And amidst all these past remembrances and future machinations so many people lose their lives. Their life gets frittered away because they have missed the “moment,” and life only happens in the moment.
Yes indeed I know plenty of people who have lost their lives who aren’t even dead yet – I just don’t want to be one of them
I came across something Anne Lamont said in an often-quoted commencement speech she once gave to young graduates in the prime of their lives as they were preparing to embark on their careers. In light of what happened to those beautiful young people who yesterday tragically and suddenly “lost their lives,” these words take on a renewed sense of wisdom for me:
Oh my God, what if you wake up some day and you are 65 or 75
and you never got your memoir or novel written,
or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years
because your thighs were too jiggly;
or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people pleasing
that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life?
It’s going to break your heart, don’t let that happen to you!
As I sit in my garden and watch yet another breathtaking desert sunrise, I am keenly aware of this moment. Life is happening “now,” so I open my arms and embrace what comes to me, doing my best not to cling to anything so that I don’t lose my life before I die.