Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Good Old Days

"Life is Now"
- in my meditation garden -

My brother is here visiting us for the weekend and so yesterday after dinner we all sat around the hearth and regaled one another with stories of the good old days – stories about events that happened when we were children, tales of long-dead grandparents, favorite aunts and uncles, reminiscences of the house we grew up in long ago and far way. Telling those stories was one of those wonderful “thin place” moments in life where somehow we were all able to experience a sense of deeper peace and greater joy while being together.

As our enthusiastic, tender and often hilarious storytelling adventure continued on last night I was suddenly struck with the realization that our tales of the past weren’t leading us into a “thin place” because they helped us remember all the wonderful things that went on in better times; rather the telling of our stories were the vehicles for binding us together in the present, in the now, as we sat together in front of the fireplace.

I am reminded of something Eckhart Tolle once said:

Life is now.
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.

As I think about it that’s probably why all of us share stories about the days gone by, not because we want to wallow in the past but rather because our shared stories are the vehicles for linking us together in the present - the place where life happens.

It’s very interesting to me that in all the major world religions, whenever people gather together for prayer or worship, they always tell those stories about the good old days contained in the various scriptures of the different traditions - colorful tales of past heroes and glorious events. I think the reason for re-telling those “holy stories” is not because the past was such a better, “more sacred” time; rather the stories are told because they are the vehicles that help form a sense of fellowship and community among the people gathered together in the now.

In one of his later journal entries, the renowned monk and mystic, Thomas Merton, wrote:

The one thing that has grown most noticeably in my spiritual life
is the grip the ‘present’ has on me.
As I am getting older I am more and more aware of
the reality of now and the unreality of all the rest.

I find myself very much identifying with Merton’s wisdom here. As I get older I also feel the grip the present has on me. I am at that point in my life where I feel less and less compelled to strategize for the future; and oddly enough, even my reminiscences of the past, when shared with family and friends, help me to be more and more aware of the reality of the now and the unreality of all the rest.

Yes, I truly believe that these are the good old days.

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