“You will know (the good from the bad) when you are calm, at peace. Passive.“ – Yoda
When you live to be 900 years old and have trained Jedi for 800 years like Yoda I suspect your perception of time would differ to a life form that lived a far shorter life span. The Galapagos Tortoise can live to over 150 years. Some have been recorded to live over 200 years. I wonder how passing time feels to a Tortoise. My guess is they don’t think about it much and simply live their lives one day at a time, one moment at a time.
“Time is an illusion.” – Albert Einstein
To the rest of us, time is such a finite resource. These days’ people seem to be time deprived. In fact we are and it is not lost on a lot of corporations that take advantage of our lack by trying to sell us more time while exploiting the fact most of us don’t have the time to research options.
We are in fact rushing from one day to the next. Within what seems to be breath of existence we soon find our days have been utterly spent. Most people do not take the time to appreciate the moments let alone the time they have left.
“The trouble is, you think you have time” – Guatama Buddha
What if it could be different? Do we need to devote all our attention and energy to a point in the future where happiness will be achieved? Our Ego is future focused. We work our lives away to be able to be debt free when we are too old to really enjoy life. We put in an ordinate amount of effort in to achieving some ideal at some point in the future.
Our dreams become preoccupied with a promotion or new career, new house, new car, better body and more money. When we arrive at these goals the happiness they promised in the past is not realized past the short term. We find ourselves arriving at one thing, finding satisfaction for a while before become restless and wanting more. The years and decades pass in some futile hedonistic pursuit of happiness.
“It is not that we have so little time but that we lose so much. … The life we receive is not short but we make it so; we are not ill provided but use what we have wastefully.” – Seneca
Life can be a string of meaningless acts of instant gratification and pleasure seeking. Ask any alcoholic why they drink. The fundamental reason is in order to fill some great emptiness in their lives. They seek fulfillment through the temporary sensation of pleasure that alcohol brings. Alcohol promises an illusion of happiness and transcendence to a higher plane. Of course we know the opposite is true. Booze distorts our perception and leads us down a path that leads to suffering and eventually spirals to a personal hell or worse.
One of the things that I became acutely aware of when I was drinking was the relentless march of time. I could feel the sands of time slipping through my fingers. It felt as if time was running out. I was careening to some unknown destination.
I would awake in the middle of the night still feeling the booze in my system. There was a creeping sense of terror. I could feel of the weight of some dark and terrible destiny on my shoulders. It felt like I was wrestling a Demon. The fear was tangible and at time I felt like I was sinking into some sort of purgatory, consumed by a darkness that had no limits and no escape.
Time stood out in harsh reality. I saw the remainder of my days set out before me like some twisted and dark path and I realized this was a slow death. At times I thought about suicide but I feared what came beyond death. I sometimes still feel the echo of that fear when I am tired and doubt clouds my mind.
“They lose the day in expectation of the night, and the night in fear of the dawn.” – Seneca
“One Day at a Time”
There is a saying in AA that with enough sober time we get to have a choice whether we want to be an old timer or not. We have a simple choice; drink or don’t drink. Do or do not, there is no try. Through our choices we at least have some control in the present and in the future. That knowledge makes us realize that life happens in the Now, not at some time in the future.
We realize that there is no requirement other than a desire to stop drinking followed by a simple decision not to drink on a day by day basis. By simply not picking up, we decide to some extent how that day will turn out. The next day we do it again and again in the day after that. Life becomes a string of sober days and we find ourselves living “one day at a time”. The path is no longer a dark and twisted one. It has becomes a path filled with light and a bright future.
“Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.” – Lao Tzu
Living life “one day at a time” is the key to a “Good Life”. It is the path that leads to true happiness. We are more mindful of every passing moment. Our sobriety allows us to appreciate each day. The things that concerned us in the past become less of a worry.
We know that things will turn out just fine and even if at times life appears difficult. Fundamentally all is well and this too shall pass. We find within ourselves the need to help others and to share what we have learned.
Life becomes simpler, more meaningful and peaceful. I no longer wake up in the middle of the night gripped in some unspeakable terror. We lose the fear of growing old and dying. I know I belong to the Force and I will return to it one day so why should I be afraid?
“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” – Mother Teresa
The Old Timer
Yesterday I wrote about Growing Old. I mentioned a man, Li Ching-Yuen, who had lived 256 years. This man lived in China in the last century. All the aged who knew him, including very old men over 100 said that he had already been ancient when they were young children.
This man told that he had been trained by another who had lived to the age of 500. A type of Chinese Yoda, he had learned the secrets of the Force (Tao). Martial Arts, meditation, herbs and breathing exercises were part of his training.
Outside of the Old Testament there is no written story of people living to such an age. What was this man’s secret? According to a Journalist who met him it was based on a very simple philosophy of life:
- Keep a quiet heart
- Sit like a tortoise
- Walk sprightly like a pigeon
- Sleep like a dog
Whether Li Ching-Yuen lived to 256 as was claimed or less is irrelevant. Li Ching-Yuen said that maintaining an inner calm and peace of mind, living in the moment were vital. Taking breathing exercises and being active and taking rest when needed were also secrets to his longevity. We all need these things to be healthy.
In a world that is in hyper drive all the time and over obsessed with instant gratification and future reward these simple practices should be welcome. We all have within ourselves the ability to decide how we want to live inwardly and whether we let stress and the pressures of life build us up or break us down. Time in our experience only moves in one direction, our choice is how we use the time given us. Few of us will be able to cheat time but we can make the most of it.
We can all take a page from Li Ching-Yuen and like Yoda learn the true meaning of the words “Calm at Peace, Passive”.
“Life is long, if you know how to use it.” – Seneca