Over the years, with my connection to yoga and mindfulness I’ve heard a lot of this: One is always striving to be IN the moment. The effort is to not be, in your head, of elsewhere in your mind, not going through the motions of being present while really being a shell of a person. But lately I’ve been seeing the irony of all this striving. And this is it:
If you think about it- really think about it- you will notice that a vast majority of the moments you live– you don’t remember. Even if you were present for them– you experience them and then they slip into that place where moments go– away. I mean seriously, we experience 86,4000 seconds in each day. How many of those can you recall? I’d wager the number is something like 1%. I’m totally making that number up—but seriously– we literally don’t recollect most of the moments we’ve spent alive. We experience 31,536,000 moments/seconds in one year. I’m 44. My calculator can’t even count as many moments I’ve already experienced. No worries though because I’ve already forgotten most of them. 😉
I said this to a friend recently, and he playfully chided me about getting old- but it’s not about that. Even at 10 years old I wouldn’t have been able to exactly recall anywhere close to the 315,360,000 moments I’d already been alive. That, my friends, is called being human– I guess. One way or the other we actually don’t recall the majority of our experiences. Most of them are forgotten.
You never know which ones will be remembered. But there are always ones that do shine. I can still remember in vivid detail a moment I experienced more than 20 years ago. I was in Velingara, Senegal. I was a Peace Corps volunteer. I had just disembarked from a dusty station wagon where I had been a passenger (with others) for the last nine hours. Another Peace Corps volunteer had jumped out with me and was helping me with my bags. His name was Maceo. The sun was beating down, the street was made pretty much entirely of sand. I was moving my green backpack toward a metal gate. Maceo had knocked on the gate and we were waiting for it to open. And in that moment, Maceo said to me, “Welcome home.”
Behind the gate lay what would be my home for the next two years. But what was most impactful about that moment was not my home— or the feel of the hot sub-Saharan day– it was those words– and the effect that they had on my being. It was as if every cell in my whole being relaxed.
Right then I locked onto an important piece of information: “Welcome” is a vital word.” It actually induces a physically calming response. It makes you feel open, buoyant, safe, and secure. I didn’t think those exact sentences at the time– but it’s no joke to say that I was aware of a powerful understanding AND that that moment has literally shaped my life ever since. From that time I’ve said, “Welcome” whenever I could. It’s one of the first things I say when people arrive in my home. When my students arrive to my classes or programs, I say welcome. When I’m doing an event I will stop mid-way through a thought to say welcome to a person who has arrived late. The moment Maceo showed me how powerful and lovely it was to be welcomed I wanted to offer it to others whenever I could.
So, I’m going to offer it to you today:
“Welcome home, to this moment.”
You probably won’t remember it later, or most of whatever else you’ve experienced today, or yesterday, or the day before. But that’s okay. Because the irony is for a long time many of us have been striving for what is already pretty much the only thing available to us: Now.
I find heart in that. We can rest assured knowing that without any effort (I didn’t try to recall that moment with Maceo on the sandy Velingara road on that day in 1997), the memorable moments weave themselves into what looks like the tapestry of our lives. They mark the journey, and influence the shape of what we become. But for me there is still wonder and a growing gratitude in knowing that I’m going to forget most of the seconds that I am alive. It makes me notice: THIS is the one that matters: This moment here. Because for real, it’s all I’ve got.