Often times we only appreciate things in hindsight. When I was practicing and learning from my teachers, or meditating in the Matrimandir, or cooling off under a waterfall, or taking a walk through an empty magical forest, or lapsing up a delicious green curry, or teaching in a foreign country, I couldn’t imagine the longing I’d have for those moments weeks later. As they were happening, I couldn’t know how much I would miss them. My trip seemed to be a strange mix of longing for the past and worrying of the future. The times when I was fully immersed in what I was doing right then and there were sprinkled in like bits of candy floating through an ice cream sundae. And like a child when I uncovered those rare morsels of present moment awareness, I devoured and savored them but may not have fully appreciated them until they were gone.
Are time and comparison a requisite for appreciation? How can we possibly comprehend the meaning or depth of something without the context of time? Can we truly recognize the preciousness of a moment, a person, a kiss, a meal without comparison to another person, kiss, or meal? Is it possible to understand the beauty of a moment in the very instant it’s happening?
I don’t have the answer to that. If I did I wouldn’t keep reminding myself to enjoy the present moment. Or reminiscing about my past adventures in India, Sri Lanka and Thailand
Just a couple of weeks ago, I was sitting in a garden oasis in the middle of Luang Prubang, enjoying the most random mix of music – first Billy Joel, then Bob Marley, Sublime and oooo – is that Steve Miller Band I hear?
Anyway, as I sang the first few lines of For the Longest Time, out of nowhere a few tears slid down my face. (In those days, it could have been sweat beads. There was all sorts of liquid coming out of my pores in that heat.) I can’t say for sure, but I believe singing the song aloud conjured up the innocence of my childhood and the carefree days of living without much responsibility for my life. As I continually contemplate, what’s next? I recalled times when I didn’t have to answer that question. Even though the drama and turmoil of my teens seemed important at the time, life didn’t have the weight it does now.
That moment in Laos emphasizes the very thing I’m writing about here. I knew my final week was upon me and that soon, my journey would be considered the past. And maybe I didn’t do all I could to honor my present.
Joni sang it best – you really don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.
May we not wait for time to march on to savor every person, taste, and experience that life offers us or prove to us that the moment we have now is magical. May we truly seize the day and find appreciation without comparison and gratitude without prerequisite.
It is my hope that you and I know what we have while it’s here.