We are all so plagued by our constant thoughts about tomorrow and yesterday that we often meet the present moment as a stranger in the crowd.
All morning I have been watching my mind work on some pretty heavy family issues. We are seeing our elders grow old and ill and at this very moment making life and death decisions. My family is juxtaposed between our lifelong history and our uncertain future. I am tempted to be swept into the emotions of this, but my inner self is finding it easier to detach from those old patterns and observe the situation with new eyes.
There is a part of me (not the real me of course, but my ego) that keeps trying to recall the past emotions and cognitions of my childhood and make that my reality. As I see this happen I am practicing meditation that reminds me that I am not physically, mentally or emotionally the same person I was thirty years ago, and neither are those in my family. At times I feel like holding grudges, or giving in to an overwhelming sense of obligation. But my true self knows these feelings are just delusions of my ego that will only cause frustration and pain. I am remembering that I am whole and complete and infinitely loved by God, lacking nothing. From this strength I am able to love without restraint and rise above the drama.
There is a part of me that wants to fret about the next week, month and year - imagining potential threats, gearing up for unforeseen calamity. If I pay attention I can feel my stomach actually wrenching tighter as I contemplate the unknown disasters that await. My practice is to accept those disasters as the inevitible results of impermanence. How dare I think I am above calamity. Those fears have no power over me when I choose to embrace them with humility. They dissolve into gratitude for the beauty of the present moment.
We are always in this moment whether we recognize it or not. But our ego is convinced that emotional burdens are a necessary evil. They aren't! The first step - the only step - toward freedom is questioning this belief.
I have spoken so much about responding to pain with meditation, and this past few weeks have put that to the test. The contrast between my old perspective and new enlightenment is still fresh and raw. I suspect it would be easy to regress into my former anxious ways, but I also know I can never fully go back. I have become too acquainted with that stranger in the crowd - the unfamiliar now. Lately I find myself looking for him more than ever, hoping to one day be the closest of friends.