There are those days when it’s hard to see what’s in front of us. Whatever is next is occupying seven eighths of the mind while the other eighth is trying to block out the annoyances of the day-the dirty dishes in the sink (placed in the sink if I’m lucky), “Is this water or pee?”, bills from the orthodontist, “Why is my wool sweater in the dryer?,” the Covid 15 (only 15 lbs if I’m lucky). It’s easy on those days to get stuck in the mindset of imagining life different than it is, “better” than it is, and thinking the “if only’s.” “If only I had more time to exercise, if only we had grandparents close by to help out, if only my husband wasn’t so stressed out from work…”
Even with all my meditating, I still have these kinds of days, so I run a little thought experiment to reorient my perspective. There was this movie I saw a long time ago, it was called “AI” as in Artificial Intelligence. It was kind of creepy and I don’t remember most of it, but there is this scene where the protagonist child robot, who being a robot is immortal, has been entombed in a car for thousands of years and is discovered by the advanced species of the time who have the ability to reconstruct a single day of the past. The boy robot’s day is not something spectacular, it’s a day at the home where he used to live with his “mother,” and an animatronic teddy bear playing hide and seek and laying in the sun. I have a point in describing this, bear with me.
Sometimes, when I need to snap out of it (or should I say snap into it), I imagine I have come back from thousands of years in the future and have landed in this moment, whatever the moment is. “Hmm.. the kids are very young and there’s a tree, masks on the table, must be Christmas 2020. Ah, this is the day that Delphine was yelling at Scarlett because Scarlett took the sticker she wanted out of a page of 100 almost identical stickers, and Adrian smashed most of the ornaments on the bottom half of the Christmas tree.” After a few minutes of this daydream, I get a flavor of the swelling of emotion I would feel during such a reunion and immediately go to hold them and smell their hair and love on them for a few minutes until they tell me I’m weird and run off.
What’s interesting to me about this thought experiment is I never want to come back to anything different than exactly what is, down to the tiniest detail. Even the idea of the advanced beings having, “cleaned up” my past and I come back to a spotless house, a Christmas tree with all its ornaments, my kids on their best behavior and I’m wearing non-elastic pants is horrifying to me. I would scream, “These are imposters, put it back to how it was now!”
It’s because this is life and the point of it is it. It’s not your dream job or having a family or getting through your to-do list or following through on your New Years’ intentions (apparently we’re calling them intentions now). The point of life is living it as it is, all of it. And you don’t want to miss it. You don’t want to miss all the in-between moments-the light bouncing off the dirty dishes, the crunching sound of the frost on the grass first thing in the morning, the love awkwardly peeking through the actions of an introverted neighbor. The anger that cracks us open, the failures that humble us, even the grieving, especially the grieving, we don’t want to miss it either.
This time of year there’s a lot of goal-setting, lots of “where do I want to be by 2022,” vision boards, etc. and it’s all great. However, if you’re not careful, it can lead to lots of imagining life being a way other than how it is and a mindset where happiness and fulfillment is on the other side of an objective, happiness as six months and 3 smaller dress sizes into the future. You don’t need life to look a certain way or even feel a certain way to enjoy it, this is the essence of living in the moment. In fact, if it were any different than this, it wouldn’t be real, it wouldn’t be authentic and therefore it would be hollow-it would be lifeless. That’s not to say that there’s no point in striving for improvement, we are all evolving all the time. These are not mutually exclusive endeavors. Living life to the fullest is not jumping out of an airplane or traveling around the world but filling each moment with life.
The conditioning to strive for the great “something else” and not even see what’s in front of us, it’s strong, so, so strong. Learning to love yourself and your life and every part of it, not wishing a single bit of it away-learning to Be, this is not what we are taught growing up. The reason I came to meditation so many years ago was because I had already missed so much. Whole years had been sucked up into depression, anxiety and simply having my awareness hopping between reviewing the past and rehearsing the future. Meditation rewires the mind so it is drawn to the present without trying, it is naturally geared to find fulfillment within and not in an ever-shifting objective. It is a process for sure, but over time, the conditioning starts to fall away and the present becomes, well, more present.
This year, I won’t be making any big plans for myself. If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s to not set any rigid expectations. No, before I let my ambitions take the wheel, I am going to better practice what I preach. I will try to not try so hard at improving my life thereby letting it pass by. I will resolve to Be.
Kristen Vandivier is an instructor of Vedic Meditation and the founder of The Vedic Method and Meditation Without Borders. She is regarded for her ability to make profound teachings relevant to everyday life and her mission of promoting meditation for social change. After completing an intensive curriculum of training under renowned Master Maharishi Vyasananda Thom Knoles, including a three-month immersion program in the Himalayas, Kristen returned to found her practice. She lives in Mill Valley with her husband and three small children.
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Originally published at https://www.thevedicmethod.com on December 30, 2020.