I recently made a trip to Southern California, where I grew up. My dad had passed away and my brother and I were taking turns spending time with our mom, who was dealing with the loss of her husband and not used to spending time alone. I had accepted the passing of my dad and was trying to be very present and positive.
Although some things had changed, the streets and neighborhood hadn't. My mom and I would take walks in the morning for exercise and to travel a couple of miles on foot was no big thing as my mom is in incredible shape.
It was on these walks that I noticed some of the distances or proportions of the streets and blocks were somehow different than I remembered them. It was later that I remembered reading about the experience of the present moment being the only thing that is real. Thoughts of the past are just that — thoughts. It was like I could recreate the neighborhood I grew up in but my memory of it and my present experience of it were slightly different.
What I'm trying to get at here is how we use our memories to make up who we are and if instead we would focus on the present we just might have a smoother ride through life. We let so many of our thoughts dictate what we are, what we need and what we are afraid of that we fail to see the choices we have in the present. We are not our memories but instead the awareness of what we are experiencing right now. And right now we have that choice to let go of judgment, treat one another how we would want to be treated, show a little compassion and forgiveness.
I think that part of being present is having faith. When we can choose to make good choices like the ones I mentioned it is reflected back to us. It all starts with letting go of our thoughts of the past and the misperceptions they present. It takes a leap of faith to change from listening to our thoughts to trusting what is. When we take things personally and react it is just our thoughts that we are reacting to. By not taking things personally it allows us to see that we have a choice and can be more positive so any outcome will be better for all concerned. Having faith also helps us to let go of our anxieties and worries about the future.
I am reminded of a quote by Jack Kerouac that goes something like, "Happiness consists in realizing it is all a great strange dream." When I stop and think of myself as spirit, what I really am, I could see where this is all just an elaborate dream. We make up all kinds of fears and desires in the dream that we think will help us. We get so caught up in our thoughts we miss the point that if we are spirit this dream will pass and we will be fine. Have you ever experienced a dream that seemed like it lasted a long time and when you awoke you realized it had only been a short time in what you consider to be your awakened reality? If you apply this to a larger picture and look at yourself as an eternal spirit, what is this little pittance of time we spend here in this dream we call reality? If we were to focus on this idea wouldn't we be a lot happier, at peace? And what in a dream can affect what we really are?
So happiness doesn't just come from the realization that this is a dream, it also comes from the experience of remembering that we are so much more than the dream. Have a good day.
Mike Bradshaw lives in Medford and walks his dogs daily.
The Ashland Daily Tidings invites residents of the Rogue Valley to submit articles on all aspects of inner peace. Send 600 to 700 word articles to Sally McKirgan firstname.lastname@example.org.