Most of the time, I measure my worth based on what I do. I tick through lines of endless to do lists week after week measuring my life’s progress by the tasks I have accomplished and the chores I have completed. Then I create more lists and goals and worry about what needs to get done. I focus on doing not being.
Ram Dass once wrote, “The caterpillar isn’t walking around saying ‘I’ll soon be a butterfly.’ As long as he is a caterpillar he can’t be a butterfly. It’s only when its caterpillarness is done that one starts to be a butterfly.” Sometimes I want to be a butterfly so badly that I forget about enjoying the process. I forget that I am still a caterpillar and I forget to enjoy the journey.
I am an expert on living in the past and future. I think about my mistakes and how I wish I could change them. I worry about what will happen at work or dwell on a problem that does not matter. It is a Sunday afternoon, a day I look forward to every week. Although I live in a peaceful home with a kind husband, my mind is full of chatter. This day exists so that I can enjoy the beautiful life I have created. Instead, I find myself buzzing with worry. Every Sunday night I feel a tinge of anxiety because my weekend is ending. Instead, I could enjoy the end of my weekend. How many hours of life have I lost because I am not fully enjoying each moment? How many weeks have I lost because I am idling along on cruise control?
One of the greatest masters of living in the now was a man by the name of Guido Orefice. He was a Jewish poet imprisoned with his wife and son in a concentration camp during World War 2. To keep his son alive, he told the young boy that they were playing a game. Whoever earned 1,000 points first won a real army tank. Guido created a fictional game including hide and seek to keep the 5-year old from being discovered by Nazi guards.
He did not focus on the executions behind him or ahead of him. He focused everything he had on creating joy in the most dismal situation conceivable. His imagination and brilliance kept the child alive. Every second they had together was precious. Because of Guido’s ability to think quickly and live in the moment, he taught us all how to be in this world. Although he suffered a tragic death, in the end, his life teaches us a valuable lesson.
Stories of such greatness help me keep my small worries in perspective. I have many heroes and teachers who remind me to enjoy every second of life. Most of my problems are diminutive. My favorite history professor once said “All that matters is that we make it to heaven. Everything else is just mush in between.” Spiritual giants exist in this world. And they seem to grasp this simple concept. For the rest of us, it is work.
I am sharing some words I came up with to keep me living in the present moment. You can use these or create your own. Use them whenever your mind wanders into the past or future.
Today I enjoy the now.
Today I am happy just being.
I don’t have to be “doing” all the time.
Today I am comfortable in my skin.
Today I enjoy the silly things, the little things, and the big things.
Be. Be. Be.