“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.” Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment.
Yesterday, a member of my husband’s networking group suffered a massive heart attack. John was at the group’s morning meeting and had just given a “spotlight” talk – wherein members talk about themselves so other members get to know them and their business.
He finished his talk, left the room and crashed to the floor.
Two members of the group rushed to his side to administer CPR and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. EMTs took over, put him in the ambulance and rushed him to the hospital.
A few hours later he died.
This is hard to write because the sudden death of a 59 year old man with a wife, three children, family and friends is not about me. Because I didn’t know John that well, I don’t even have the right to grieve. My sympathy for his family isn’t about my loss and, when I make it personal by veering into empathy, I find myself backing away. Imagining myself as the wife, losing my husband, consoling my children is just too painful to bear.
What I am sitting with is the fact that, just a day before John died, my husband spoke with him on the phone.
The subject was the group’s holiday party, scheduled two weeks from today. When my husband asked John if he would be there, he replied, “Absolutely, my wife and I are looking forward to it.”
Every day, I make plans, assumptions and predictions about the rest of my days. I “absolutely” believe them too, despite the fact that I should know better by now. Sure, it’s pleasant to look forward to happy things (which may or may not happen,) but the flip side is the fear and dread that comes from worrying about the future.
Having cancer made me an Olympic-level worrier. At some point after I had my mastectomy, I discovered Eckhart Tolle and realized I needed something I thought he could teach me. That something was peace of mind.
It turns out that creating peace of mind is simple but far from easy. In a nutshell, all you have to do is practice mindfulness by making “the NOW the primary focus of your life.”
For the past four years, I’ve been trying to do that, but I struggle and I think I now get why. Simply put, I forget. I forget that life is short. I forget that we don’t necessarily have many more decades together. I forget that children grow up and move out. I forget that people die. Why do I forget? Because it’s just too painful to remember. This is not our first inexplicable, sudden death. It’s not that I don’t know, it’s that I don’t want to know.
When Tolle tells me I must “realize deeply that the present moment is all you have,” he’s telling me flatly to remember that my days (and those of my loved ones) are numbered.
Someday, for each of us, there will be no tomorrow. At that moment, we will have proved, completely and without any doubt, that all we have is the present moment. The trick is getting to that realization well before we take our final breath.
Beautifully said. When I was in college I read Be Here Now by Ram Dass. It wasn’t until I had breast cancer that I really felt I understood the nature of how to live in the moment. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you for this post Debbie. I am always saddened to hear about a sudden death like that of your husband’s co-worker. “All any of us have is today” is a mantra I repeat often.I work on the mindfulness and presence too, and it does take work. For me, being grateful and actively practicing that gratitude helps me pause and notice the moments more. It helps me be more mindful. I do that by journaling, blogging, writing a gratitude letter, or doing an A-Z gratitude list to name a few.I was practicing gratitude before my own BC diagnosis five years ago, but going through cancer surgeries and treatments certainly helped clarify my priorities and motivated me to take less in life for granted.Your post is a good reminder to us all. Thanks!
Thanks for the reminder
It doesn’t matter how many times we hear stories such as your husband’s work colleague’s, we never seem to think we will be faced with a similar situation. We need constant reminders that life is indeed fragile and we must become more mindful of living in the present to our fullest capacity. Thanks for the reminder today x
A beautiful post about a
A beautiful post about a really important topic, Debbie. Since cancer, my worries have reached Olympic proportions, too. I have Toll’s book in my house, and it’s about time I dust off the book and read it. You are right about living in the present. It’s so hard because we get wrapped up in life’s worries, it’s easy to lose mindfulness. Thanks for reminding us that there’s no time, but present time.
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