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The Choice Is Yours

Sunrise at Malibu Lake in the Santa Monica Mou...

Sunrise at Malibu Lake in the Santa Monica Mountains near Malibu, California, which is located on the northwestern edge of Los Angeles County, May 1975 (Photo credit: The U.S. National Archives)

It was near the end of my almost month-long stay in Los Angeles, and I’d finally made it to Malibu Beach. It was a perfect day for the beach, sand castles and sand angels. I find the rhythmic, gentle roar of the ocean waves mesmerizing, so I sat for a while taking in the seemingly infinite expanse of the water.

Soon, I was standing in the Pacific Ocean with my g’son awaiting the crash of the surf as it hit our bodies. I waited with the anticipation of the 3-year-old standing beside me. At the moment of impact, the surf dispersed the sand from beneath my feet, and I was on the verge of losing my balance. I must admit that my initial feeling was one of fear and loss of control. So, it was no surprise that my body reacted instinctively and went into a ‘fight or flight’ mode. My muscles tightened and my breath quickened, awaiting a nonexistent foe.

Assessing the situation, what I felt was akin to the earth giving way beneath my feet, and I, like a drunk college student stumbling home after the latest frat party, swayed to and fro, barely keeping my balance. Although I tried, I couldn’t formulate the words to explain the feeling to my son-in-law, who was nearby taking photos. From out of nowhere, I felt it–a moment of sweet, exhilarating perfection, followed by an acceptance and surrender to the feeling. My body sensed it as well, because almost instantaneously, it relaxed and my breath deepened. Bliss replaced the tension that I’d spent moments ago. In those brief series of moments, there was no agonizing about the past, or yearnings about the future. There was simply that perfect moment when everything made sense, and all was right with the world.  Without thinking, everything within me knew that this was it, the elusive present moment. To my utter amazement, as I stood there in the ocean, the same thing happened two more times.

At first, my experience blew me away, and I wanted it to happen again. I am an unabashed seeker, like the majority of us, and long to live my life without the baggage borne of the past or future. The name of my blog, “Seeking Querencia,” says it all. Having spent a lifetime “living” a soul-sucking existence that can easily lull you into a sense of normalcy, I wanted to experience life’s moments, every precious one of them. There, I can let go of worries and wounds of the past and the never-ending daydreams about the unknowable future, and as it is said, to “stop and smell the roses.”

What I slowly realized is that it was those moments preceding my “transcendental” experience that held the key to my goal. It is then when I choose to let go of my endless thoughts and feelings about the past and the future. When we dwell in the present moment, there is no past or future. As Eckhart Tolle is known to say, there is only the now. The past and the future only exist in our minds and clinging to them only serve to strengthen them and prolong the hold that they have on us. They hold no significance. More importantly, they block our path to the only moment that is available to us, the present moment.

Each moment is a morsel that has within it the promise of infinite possibilities. They hold, among other things, a potential world of grace and mystery, and as they drift on by, they, too, become the past. We will never know what beauty, joy or wonder was within our reach, because the moment shall never come again. Mind you, the past is not irrelevant. It informs who we are. Yet, we are not meant to live there, we are meant to learn from it. The future, in spite of careful planning, is amorphous, and short of being able to see into the future, it eludes us and takes our attention from what is before us.

In those perfect moments that I experienced, I choose the present in lieu of the past or future. By doing so, I claimed the only moment given me. I love the following quote by Martha Graham, the acclaimed dancer and choreographer. She said,

“All that is important is this one moment in movement. Make the moment important, vital, and worth living. Do not let it slip away unnoticed and unused.”

The last sentence wallops me. When we embrace each moment fully, we invite the present moment, not as a fleeting occurrence, but as a way of life–a fully aware and experiential life. From now on, this is what I seek.

How do you practice living your life in the present moment? I urge you to share your experience with us.

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