“There would seem to be nothing more obvious, more tangible and palpable than the present moment. And yet it eludes us completely. All the sadness of life lies in that fact.” -Milan Kundera
Often, when we hear the phrase, “There is no time like the present…” we are admonishing ourselves or someone else about seizing the day, getting something done, and stopping the procrastination. Although this cliché, urging us on may be well intended, what is equally true is that the more attention we focus on getting something done, the less attention we have for the moment itself. I am intimately challenged by this conundrum. I have long believed that, in this brief life we are given, we know ourselves and imprint whatever legacy we may leave on the world and the people we love by what we do. I am a compulsive over-doer- ask anyone who knows me and it’s easy to slip into the urgency to do more, as well as fend off the guilt for not doing enough in this most crazed of all seasons.
But all this doing takes its toll. For many of us, stress-related illnesses that impact both body and mind consume what little attention is left to us. Forget about experiencing the moment- whole days slip by without a single grateful recognition. Our time flies while all this stuff gets done, but we are too busy to acknowledge it, let alone feel it. I remember one too many Christmas Eves when I was wrapping gifts into the early morning hours, not with joy but with resentment. My back was aching and all I wanted was to go someplace and hear some distant church bells. For years, I have fought this inner battle between all that I was constantly compelled to do, and my increasingly desperate longing for stillness, which was barely audible above the din of all my doing.
I didn’t understand that the real satisfaction that I was seeking from all my activity would never come from outside and I had little practice with turning inward. My transition was gradual, but one interview I had with Sally Kempton about her book, Meditation for the Love of It opened a door inside me that had been barred for most of my life. As I began to give myself permission for even 5 minutes of my full attention in a time of stillness, I was able to hear that small voice inside of me that had been so long ignored. Not only did I start to experience small doses of inner calm, but I realized how even the smallest expanses of quiet work magic on our ability to truly experience the moment we are in. This is not a story of some overnight transformation, rather a slow and steady reckoning of where my happiness and peace is derived. Now, I schedule my meditation times like clockwork, twice a day, turning away from all the distractions and doing in favor of the quiet contemplation that I need to feel my life.
It turns out that a lot of the stuff that I was compelled to do did not serve me or anyone else much. Gifting given with resentment and expectation is better not given at all. It takes inner space to know what you really have to give and, just as importantly, to actually feel the gifts that are coming to you. So, if you only do one thing for yourself this year, give yourself the gift of real time. There actually is no time like the present… especially if it is focused on hearing what your heart is saying, a voice that deserves your attention more than all the to-do lists in the world.