Monday, June 8, 2015
"If you could tell your great-great grandchild, just ONE thing, what would it be?"
~ Kathy Rogers ~
It was a dark and stormy night. No. No. It was a cloudy, warm day in Southwest Texas on a return trip from Big Bend National Park when Kathy sprung this question on me. ONE thing? Just ONE?
While a seemingly harmless question, it actually gave me immediate butterflies. I felt under pressure to come up with one simple thing to tell my great-great grandchildren. At 54, I should have one piece of timeless advice all ready to pass along to the next generation....and the next....and the next. I have experienced a lot of amazing things, after all. Some good. Some bad.
So a question I had no immediate answer for began to haunt me for a week or more. And yes, it actually woke me up at night a couple times. ONE thing? I thought of many, many things I would want to say. But it took over a week to finally arrive at that ONE thing. Almost sounds like something Curly would tell Mitch.
So I thought of many. And many of those I've already forgotten. Indeed, many of these are those just about any older person would pass down to a younger one. So stick with me and we'll get to that ONE thing.
Don't sweat the small stuff.
Connect with nature.
Life is just life. Don't take yourself too seriously.
Find a way to serve others.
Be true to yourself.
Embrace failure. It means you tried.
Life is precious. All life. Don't kill things.
Follow your heart.
Draw your own conclusions.....about EVERYTHING!
Live in childlike wonder, especially in adulthood.
Change your major.
Change your mind.
Stand for something.
Engage in some form of labor that makes you sweat every once in a while.
Don't work out.
Stop worrying. It solves nothing.
Be a problem solver.
See the world.
Catch a snowflake on your tongue.
Hold a bird.
Do it all.
See it all.
As you can obviously see, this list could be infinite based on one's experience. And trust me when I tell you, I abbreviated the list. None of those things are the ONE thing and the list was simply to make a point. Life is meant to be lived.
A few years ago I went through one of those particularly tough spots emotionally. It was rooted in a relationship..... or a failed one. Nothing earth shattering. We all have them. That's life. It is. For some reason this struck me harder than some and I felt lost for quite some time. I did lots of things to occupy my mind and attempt a different perspective. And for reasons I don't now recall, I was led to a place that practiced Za Zen meditation. Let me be clear. I no longer practice quiet meditation like I should. In fact, it's been awhile. But the lessons I learned from my few months at this place have stuck..... at least when I remember to practice them.
I'll simplify this a great deal by saying that Za Zen meditation is completely about "the breath." The hours I spent in total silence, surrounded by others, was simply about counting the breaths I took. I didn't close my eyes. I picked a focal point, attempted to quiet my mind, and counted. You know what? I never made it to 10. Not once. I made it to 8 a couple times. Then I'd start over. It went something like this (in my head).
"Exhale......1. Deep breath. Exhale........2 Oh shit, I forgot to scoop the litter box!! My car is gonna need tires and I forgot to call my brother......where was I? Oh yes. Exhale.......1. Deep breath. Exhale.......2 I wonder if I turned the air conditioner on. What is the square root of 25,347.756?"
And so on, and so on, and so on. I kept practicing. I kept going and I kept trying. I practiced at home 30 minutes at a time, and I practiced at the temple 90 minutes at a time. My only job was to count 10 breaths. I never did it. The mind is a very busy place. You know what? It doesn't matter that I didn't make it. For little microbursts I focused on the one thing in life that really matters. Because without it, there IS nothing else. You only have this one. You may not have another. I try to live in the moment, but fail at it miserably. And yes, I CAN live in the moment one breath at a time when I stay quiet enough to listen and count. That's all there is. That is ALL there is. Nothing else matters without this breath.
All the working and fretting and worrying and trying and struggling and rejoicing, are all really just an exercise we learn because we somehow think we're less than whole. We're not. You, me.... everyone...is complete, just the way we are. We're all doing our best.
As I write this, I picture my daughters, my grandchildren, my great grandchildren and my great-great grandchildren all kneeling beside me as I start my transition to whatever is next. They all look at me, teary-eyed and ask, "What can you tell us? How will we go on?"
"It's simple my dears. It's the simplest of things and the root of all things. All life's mysteries are solved if you continue to do just one thing."