Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Making Plans

- the desert at sunset -

I recently received an email inviting me to attend a "Planning for Tomorrow Conference," a day-long financial planning seminar offered by my “Pension Fund” to give advice and offer strategies for assuring financial security in the retirement years of life.  

A few years ago I attended one of these planning conferences. At one level, I guess it’s a good idea to be as financially prepared as possible for retirement living but it seemed somewhat ironic to me to be sitting in a room “planning for tomorrow” along with a bunch of other people in their later years of life, many in their 60’s and 70’s, some in their 80’s. I remember thinking there may not be a whole lot of tomorrows for most of us to plan for.

As I think of it, the better portion of most of my entire life might be characterized by “planning for tomorrow.” As I see it, many if not most people in today’s culture spend way too much energy consumed with making plans for the future and developing strategies for the days to come.

When I was in parish ministry we were always strategizing for the future. I must have attended hundreds of meetings in which we sat for seemingly endless hours asking questions about how we might develop the church or the parish school: “Where do we see ourselves10 years from now?” The funny part of it is that ten years later, the world was so different that most of the plans we made were relatively useless. 

When we lived in Los Angles, I also found it somewhat 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 4 pre-school children to eventually attend.

In some ways my guess is that this obsession with plotting an agenda for the future probably stems from our “egoic” need to be in control. Somehow we convince ourselves that we have the ability to orchestrate the future, our planning for tomorrow allows us to believe that the days to come are in our hands and under our control.

The truth is that we really never have a "tomorrow." We can remember the past but we can't live in it because the past is over and done,  and when tomorrow comes it's no longer tomorrow - it is the present.  All I have is this moment, the present, the "now" in which to live fully, awake to the surprises each moment of every day may bring, no matter how good or how bad it may seem to be.

Author and teacher, Eckhart Tolle puts it this way:

Life is now.
There never was a time when your life was not-now and there never will be.
Most of us are never fully present in the now because unconsciously
we are either living in the past or planning for the future
believing that the next moment must be more important than this one. 
But then you miss your whole life
which is never ‘not-now’

The season of autumn has descended upon the desert where I live and along with it comes those beautiful clouds that I haven’t seen all summer long.  Yesterday I watched a magnificent sunset adorned by swirling clouds that had gathered around the setting sun in the mountains to the west. I thought of one of my favorite poems by Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh.

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

Last evening as I gazed at those majestic clouds lingering in the autumn skies, I was reminded that this moment would never come again and those clouds would swiftly fade away. So I cherished them.

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