Spiritual commentary on peace in daily life
Good morning. I want to offer a few thoughts on something that I think may help us all, make life easier, less burdensome, less anxiety ridden. And the way I want to approach it is to recommend that we locate ourselves temporarily, in three distinct ways or three times stretches. And then once I finish describing this notion of locating ourselves temporarily, I’d like to add another triptych.
Another three point thing is once we get who and what we are, when and how we are, then how to approach engaging the temporal space in which we invest ourselves and in which we see our lives unfold in three particular ways.
So the first thing that I want to describe as what I call temporal location, is to do the work to get a sense of our life in three different time orientations or time stretches. One is a years’ long one or a decade or so. It’s an approximate length of time, that is, a middle length of years of some sort. It might be something like 18 to 25, or in my 20s, or in my 30s, or the latter half of my 20s. So that from now, I’m 25 and I just finished college at 24, from now until I’m 30.
To have a general sense of ourselves in a years’ long temporal location, that could also be in my 40s, in my 50s, 60s, 70s, and on, or just from 63 to 68. That might be a time period that makes sense to a given individual. Maybe they retired early, maybe they’re planning to downsize, or people later in life, there are a lot of times there are reflections on material things or health things. So be it.
I’m not going to tell anybody how to live, what to orient themselves, but the decades or the years’ long patches in which we position ourselves or come to understand, in what place of life our life is unfolding. It’s helpful, I recommend to get a deeper and deeper and better and better sense of what that general patch of time is like at a years’ wide type of thing. So that, say I’m in my 20s, or say I’m looking at patch between 24 and 30, or 24 and 28, whichever makes sense to how we’re understanding ourselves.
That means that we’ve had life prior to that; I’ve just finished college or say if I’m looking at 18 to 25, I’ve just finished high school, it’s the first time I’m out of the house, it’s the first time I need to start to be thinking about living on my own or who I’m going to live with or what types of friends I’m going to surround myself with.
Prior to that, it was somewhat of a given I lived at home, I went to school, my available friends were those in my high school, or those on my teams, if I’m a tennis player, or a football player, whatever. Or, I’m in the acting club that’s kind of given. As we hit later times in life, there’s somewhat of an actual conscious selection of who I surround myself with. That’s extremely important in the transitional years, during college years, and in 20s. It has a tremendous influence on how our lives unfold.
The second thing I wanted to recommend is a second kind of temporal space or temporal stretch. And that is a month long thing or a weeks’ to months’ long thing. That is an entirely different feel of time. And the distinction about it is that it’s comprised of concrete, actual things to which we can tie our efforts, our orientation, and our sense of our days.
Say that in three months, I’m going to return to America. I’m studying overseas, I’m studying in France or Argentina, whatever. And in three months, I’ll be going back home after my first year in university. I have a month long sense of or in two weeks are my finals or my exams. Or in two months, a major paper is due or an assignment is due. Or in two months, I’m going to go spend the whole summer with my fiancé. First time we’ve ever spent that long together.
These are concrete, recognizable things and they exist in weeks’ and months’ type of stretch of time. So I’m located in a position in life, my 20s, my 30 to 35, and 33 to 38. At 38, I know that I’m going to move to a different state or get a different job or my military service obligation ends. Those are years’ long. Months’ long are very concrete.
I have this exam, I have this party, I have this wedding where a bunch of us are going to a friend’s wedding in New Zealand, or whatever it might be. It’s a stretch of time in which I’m located and in which my behavior has some impact on how that period is defined. What happens in am I successful, am I a failure, and so forth.
And then the final temporal location that I want to call us to think about is what I call the present. For most people who are not really intensely invested in spiritual practice, the present is approximately about a day wide, it’s a day. If you get really invested in spiritual life, you can start to narrow present down and if you become super skilled and super enlightened, then the present is nothing other than precisely that.
But for most people, the present has a little future attached to it and a little past too attached to it. What I did yesterday, do I have any regrets? Do I have any wishes? I woulda, coulda, you wake up with a review or you go to bed with a review on how the day went, you go to bed with some anxiety; ‘Oh tomorrow, I have this, I got to get up early, I have a meeting where there’s’.
Like for most people, the present is about a day wide, I’d say. And the thing about the day wide one is that it’s free, it’s a gift, and you don’t have to construct it. It happens to us automatically just by breathing in and breathing out. Just by living, just by waking up, going to sleep, eating your meals. You automatically have an approximately day wide position in life.
The other two; the years’ one, you have to consciously reflect on it. You have to consciously construct it. It’s a way of you building a sense of where my life is located in and how I am investing in, having these years look like this. And the months’ long one is similarly, we have to construct it, it’s a mental construct. It’s a mark on the calendar. Yes, I know I’m supposed to go on a few months. But this is building a mental construct in which I am defining and organizing my days in life.
The present one, that’s just given, it’s free. But on the other side of that, each one has a characteristic and a unique demand. While the now is given. The burden of it is it’s constantly on its roll; ‘I’ll just leave it there’. It’s the place in which each and every one of my thoughts, actions words, it’s when the game is on. The now is when the game is on.
It’s free, we don’t have to build it, and we don’t have to construct it. But it is what makes us. And so, some aspects of it have a higher demand than the bigger wider stretches of time in which we locate ourselves. So, that’s the one side of life work that I recommend will help make life easier. I know where I am in my life. I have a sense of it, I have defined it, I have created parameters for it, and I’m positioned. That is extremely helpful for someone to act creatively, intelligently, strategically if you’re positioned. And so, I recommend that we do that.
We create three positions that kind of coordinates, life temporal coordinates. Once we’ve done that, then what I recommend is that we seek to have those times characterized by these three things. First is giving. I have time I want to give. I want a 100% of my time to be all used for me giving something to someone or something. Whether it’s feeding my fish, watering my plants, I’m giving to something. Giving to someone, cooking for my wife or daughter, who’s a little tired that morning, giving, somehow giving.
Listening on the phone for someone who’s just had a great tragedy or a great calamity, or driving a day or two to get to someone who’s sick or lonely or had some sudden misfortune. Or, writing a check to some charities. The once I’ve located, I’ve talked about this matter of creating coordinates, temporal coordinates; years should be like this, months and weeks should be like this, my now should be like this. And I want all of them to be filled with three things.
The first one is giving, caring, feeling, investing, trying to make everything that you ever encounter better in some way. It’s defined by compassion. The second thing that I want all of my days and all of my time and all of my moments and all of my dreams, and all of my breaths, I want them to be characterized by gratitude.
I want to be thankful for my circumstances, what has happened to me, what’s around me. I want to be able to find a way that every single solitary thing that occurs in my life or is in my life, maybe I’m short, fat, and ugly. I want to find a way to be grateful for that. Maybe I have just two minutes to make the most important meeting of my life. And just before I put on my tie, I cut myself shaving. It’s the worst possible thing that can happen.
I was already late. Now I’m late, and I’m bleeding. What am I going to do? How am I going to stop this? How am I going to get to where I am? Am I going to show up to this important meeting where I want to make a good impression and want to sound like I know with a big box of tissue stuck to my face or? Things happen. I mean, I created a silly example there, but things happen.
What does it take in order for us to be grateful all the time? Well, the first thing I believe is that to grow in an increasing grasp of the fact that my life happens under the watch of an infinitely loving and compassionate and infinitely powerful entity. Call it God, call it whatever you like, but everything happens for me, for my benefit.
So for example, maybe if I cut myself shaving, maybe it held me back out of my house for the minute and a half. That would have been me rushing across the street and getting killed by a guy turning right on a red light like a maniac. I don’t know why that bit of lateness happened to me. Or at least even if it’s not magical, like ‘Oh, God’s watching over me and made me cut this’. Even if it’s utterly unrelated to anything, to be sure that the infinitely loving God of all will do something with that, that some good can come out of it.
So, I’m covered and protected. Either God is completely working my life and setting things up well for me, but those parts that are just random or my errors or my sins or whatever you want to call it, that the all loving God is even working with that. Teaching, lessons, learning, transforming, improving, feeling sorry, that’s a good feeling. That’s a God-given feeling, feeling sorry. It helps us not do bad things twice, I hope.
Giving, gratitude, and then finally, the last thing I think that our time should be constituted by is learning that every breath I take, every second of my life, all the moments of my life, I want to learn something. I want to know more than know less. I want to listen to people. I want to look at them when they’re trying to express themselves. I want to pay attention to what’s being said to me.
I want to read something, to hear something. I don’t need to treat every encounter to like tell people how much I know. It’s stupid. What’s the point of that? I already know what I know. What difference does it make if I tell somebody I know what I know? If there’s any point in me speaking at all, it should be in the arena of giving. But for the rest of things, for the rest of the universe of knowledge, I want to be learning. That takes humility, it takes curiosity, it takes self-control, and it takes interest, these things.
So, that’s the whole of what I want to say honestly, is this; get coordinates for where my life takes place. I’m recommending it takes place in a kind of a years’ zone, it takes place on a weeks’ to months’ zone, and it takes place now. And once I have my coordinates, I’m a little less nervous, I’m a little less confused, and things are a little less amorphous for me.
I know what’s worth, I definitely know what’s worth. And once I know what’s worth, then I have what I want to do. I want my time to be used to give. I want my experiences to be embraced by me with gratitude. And I want my engagement and encounter with the reality around me to be defined by learning, to be humble, to listen, to be respectful, and to take in.
Once these are the whole of our lives, it’s easier, you’re not always full of guilt, full of I didn’t do this, I should have done that, I wish I had done this, I didn’t buy that, I didn’t get that property, I made a mistake when I said.
The past is the past. I have now, I’m working on a serious set of constructions I’m working on today. I’m working on a few months’ things, it’s going to include my exams, my fiancée, my retirement pro, whatever time a lifetime. And, that’s the whole of what this is. And I have my day-to-day thing, which is just freely giving. I open my eyes in the morning, and there I am.
So what am I going to do with these three coordinates, these three locales, where I’m located in? What am I going to do with them? The only thing I want to worry about is am I investing giving in that? Am I genuinely giving? That’s all. I don’t want my time to have any other thing in it. That’s my work. That’s my labor. That’s my interest. That’s what I’m doing.
Am I grateful for the circumstances and the realities that I find myself in? And am I learning? Am I humble? Am I attentive? Am I respectful? Am I listening? That’s enough to worry about. There’s nothing else to worry about.
So, there you have it. That’s just a set of thoughts, I think, that kind of makes life easier, but not in a careless way. It makes life easier and steadily and constantly more constructive. Thank you very much, good to be with you. Talk again soon.