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“There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called Yesterday, and the other is called Tomorrow.” — The Dalai Lama XIV.
The present moment is, at most moments: simple, mundane, ordinary, dull, unattractive, etc. However, it could be the only real and tangible moment if seen with the right lenses. Looking backward or forwards on time has the appearance of being free of cost, just like having the feeling that one can afford to throw another coin into the fountain of desires without having anything to lose. It is tempting to think there is more than enough time to lose ourselves in the memories of the past or future predictions.
Such an investment rarely pays back. Isn’t it evident that we only have a finite amount of coins in our pockets from the beginning of time? For every moment of regret, the price is a moment in the now. For every fantasy of what life could be, the price is not appreciating what life can offer right now. Does giving away a minute to bargain for another past minute make any sense? Maybe it is a deliberate choice… maybe not. The mind often pulls unpleasant memories and worries about the future without conscious intention for the sake of optimizing our survival… not our well-being.
Most people wait until an event shakes every bone of their bodies to realize that we are also meant to be a small fingerprint in the book of humanity. Or, more precisely, a piece of dust in between the pages. Even then, the actual realization is that most historical figures—kings, emperors, and the wealthiest people who walked on this earth, and those who got their names in the most critical chapters of such books on humanity— would implore, bargain, and mobilize entire armies and fortunes to buy another day of existence, which for you and me is most likely taken for granted.
It is likely to feel— as one grows up— that so much has been lost in pursuing the validation of society and other empty promises—in pursuing a degree, a job, a promotion, a personal project, a one-night stand, or a weekend of meaningless pleasure and comfort. Though how could something which is always available, such as the present moment, make you feel like time has been lost?
Can moments really be counted? Or is it more like a binary state? Inside the moment or outside the moment. Every piece of now is the opportunity to choose to stay here, to be here, and to give perspective and attention to the unattended. There is no need to succumb to endless planning, regrets, or complaints. Stuff has happened, and stuff will happen… but why give away another penny of your attention to the unreal? For some is to ensure greater control, but will we ever have the control we seek? Will we get any new information from those memories and fantasies? Will we ever satiate our desire to shape our experiences to our preferences? I don’t think so.
I am aware of the value of reflection on past events and preparation for the future. I advocate for them as long as they can inform us how to use better our most valuable currency… today. The moment to understand and influence how we feel about our lives is now. The moment to be helpful and forgiving, to set boundaries or appreciate youth, and to care for those we have been neglected is also now. The real work is to learn to relate to the moment without wondering when this dress rehearsal of life ends and when the actual performance starts. Do you want to honor the past? Do something about it today. Do you want to prepare for the future? Back it up with actions today. Erase from your mind that there is enough time; that is an assumption… The hourglass is counting.
Thinking that tomorrow can fulfill what is due for today is often as appealing as an emergency boat from the uncomfortable feeling of sinking in fear, anxiety, and desperation. This band-aid will always be simpler than facing the prospect of keeping the ship afloat in the middle of the storm. The pain of failing at something we deeply care about sounds unbearable. Either way, there is no escape from the discomfort. Either take it from doing the work right now or take it from the future regret of not doing what life is asking of you.
With all love,
Santiago Barragan Noguera
Coach & Educator — Artistic Polymath
Copyright © 2023 Santiago Barragan Noguera. All rights reserved.