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“Anything can happen at any time”

That’s what Joseph Goldstein kept telling us, though it was hard to believe in the quiet of the meditation center, where, for three months, life was so similar from day to day I could easily confuse Thursday with Friday, Friday with Saturday. And it is still hard to believe, out here in “the world,” where I work and buy food and prepare it with my partner; where we have our routines, habits, small surprises: something unexpected in the mail, a friend who passes through town. But: anything? Anytime? 

It can be difficult to believe (despite the little I’ve read about uncertainty and quantum mechanics, the unscripted movements of all we can’t see). Yet I know, from a little bit of practice and experience, that I gain so much by relaxing and accepting the possibility, just the possibility, that it’s true. Since I’ve been home from the retreat, “anything at any time” has become a sort of mantra for me. Saying it to myself affects me immediately and viscerally: I can feel tension ease and my mind become more spacious, more aware of what’s happening at the peripheries. I become aware that, no matter how tightly I hold my body, I can’t really control much of anything, including my own body: its painful and pleasant feelings come and go on their own, emotions and moods pass through. My tactics for making some go away and others stay are unpredictably successful.

Although as a mantra “anything at any time” can be relaxing, in my relationships, the truth of it can be scary. It means that things can and will change. Of course, I wouldn’t really want a relationship that never changed; it would mean Icould never change. Yet, quite illogically, I wish sometimes for stasis.

My partner really likes the scene in X-Men: Days of Future past where Quicksilver stops time. Sometimes, I find I’m living as if I had that ability — I treat things and people as if they are never going to change, always going to be right where I left them. I think the world is still while only I am moving. In fact, everything is moving. Everything is happening, impinging on everything else, changing it. There is no stopping time. “Anything at any time” means we are all wildly and unpredictably free to live, change, and die.