How Much Of Life Are You Actually Living?

Earlier today I took some time out from my usual tasks and started work on organising my finances. I’m moving to Amsterdam (The Netherlands) in a few months so wanted to make sure I have enough money in place to cover my expenses. I’m going there for three months with one of my best friends, partly so I can enjoy a different culture and partly because we have some ideas for PluginID. Mind-blowing ideas. It’s nice to see that I already have enough money for the trip, so now I’m working towards other expenses like purchasing a Macbook and my planned trips to India and Argentina. As you would expect, just thinking about the future is making me ridiculously excited (people say that, honest) and this excitement is actually the inspiration for this post.   There is no ‘problem’ as such in getting excited about the future, but it is a bit like playing a broken record. We’re always getting excited about the future. We’re always looking for that quick fix to make us happy. I’m writing this on a Saturday night (I have lots of work to do) and I’m already thinking about spending time with my family tomorrow when we go out for Father’s day. Just think about all the quick-fixes for happiness or entertainment we have in our lives that we wait for. This is just a short list but there are many more things that we commonly look forward to:
  • Sex / Porn
  • Holidays
  • Meeting Friends
  • Fridays
  • Weddings
  • Births (I’m going to be an Uncle soon)
There is nothing wrong with any of these, and nothing wrong with the nature of looking forward to things. I’m sure you all agree that it’s nice to know enjoyable events are coming up in our schedule. The thing is, once this event we’ve been looking forward to is upon us, we’re already on the lookout for the next one; the next high.
  • Once the baby is born, we look forward to the Christening or Birthdays
  • Once it’s Friday we can’t wait until Saturday to hit the beach
  • Once we’re out with friends we’re excited about putting our photos on Facebook
If you look closely at your current life situation, you’ll probably be able to relate to the points above. If you’re ‘lucky,’ it’s also likely that you have some awesome event that just can’t come soon enough. Chances are though – just like the examples above – once it has arrived, your attention won’t be there to enjoy it. I don’t think anybody could say this better than Zen Buddhist, Thich Nhat Hanh: In the United States, I have a close friend named Jim Forest.  When I first met him eight years ago, he was working with the Catholic Peace Fellowship.  Last winter, Jim came to visit.  I usually wash the dishes after we’ve finished the evening meal, before sitting down and drinking tea with everyone else.  One night, Jim asked if he might do the dishes.  I said, “Go ahead, but if you wash the dishes you must know the way to wash them.” Jim replied, “Come on, you think I don’t know how to wash the dishes?” I answered, “There are two ways to wash the dishes.  The first is to wash the dishes in order to have clean dishes and the second is to wash the dishes to wash the dishes.”  Jim was delighted and said, “I choose the second way–to wash the dishes to wash the dishes.”  From then on, Jim knew how to wash the dishes.  I transferred the “responsibility” to him for an entire week. If while washing dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not “washing the dishes to  wash the dishes.”  What’s more, we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes. In fact, we are completely incapable of realizing the miracle of life while standing at the sink. If we can’t wash the dishes, the chances are we won’t be able to drink our tea either.  While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands.  Thus we are sucked away into the future and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life.

This Moment

This moment, right here, right now, wherever you are, is all that matters. This is it. I was reading ‘My Booky Wook’ recently which is the autobiography of British comedian, Russell Brand. In it he refers to the speeches that people tend to make when they receive an Oscar, Emmy, MOBO and so on. He points out that most people, when accepting awards, say things like “This means so much so me. My whole life has been leading up to this moment.” Being the honest, no-nonsense comedian that he is, Russell points out that our whole lives have been leading up to every moment. Think about that: every single thing you’ve gone through in life, every high, every low and everything in between…it has led you to this moment. Everything that has happened in your life has led to this point. I have already written an article about being present and living in the moment so I won’t go into that here. I do have a short story for you all though. My Experience There was a period of a few weeks around 3 months ago where I was trying to be in the moment as often as possible. Whether I was walking down the stairs, talking to a friend, writing a blog post or anything else, I would try to be fully present in that situation and not think about the past or the future. There was one incident I will never forget, and that was while I was cleaning up in the kitchen (exciting, I know). I use my blender every single day, and while I was on this “being present binge,” really focused on cleaning it properly without thinking of somewhere else I could be or something else I could be doing. It’s very hard to explain what I saw that day, but there was something about the water coming out of the tap that was just so…magical. I’m sure this sounds very corny and surreal (or like I’m on drugs) but it was as if the water was alive. It ran so slowly, it glistened so brightly and even if just for a second – I thought it was a part of me. If I died today, there would be no doubt in my mind about marking that down as the most beautiful moment of my life. If you can see that most of your life is spent reminiscing the past or awaiting the future, it’s not too late to change. I’m not going to end this post with an outline or action points of what you should do next. The message of this post is a lot less about doing and much more about being. Instead, I want to end with a question that reiterates the title of this article: how much of life are you actually living? If you’re like most people, the answer can probably be given with two words:- Not enough.

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