Everyone needs a haven, a place of comfort and safety to return to when times are tough, and over the course of 80 years, I’ve slowly discovered a haven that always holds its doors open. It’s simply the always ready, always easily accessible present moment. I don’t have to search for this haven, or wait for it, or hope for it, for it is always right here and right now, and it’s always endless – with no boundaries whatsoever. It’s like wandering through a mystifying, often fearful wilderness and suddenly seeing, right in front of me, a refuge of advice and support. And this haven is always here, right now. All I ever need to do is get still, take a few breaths, and then behold the boundless harbor of the present moment. It’s always a home for me, a heartening place of wellbeing and wisdom, a shelter where I can rest in the astounding peace and loveliness of what is.
I can always benefit from advice, and I find, more and more, that it’s always everywhere, waiting with its gracious wisdom. If I sit quietly and simply look at the soft light of the computer screen, some useful instruction about life might come, or if I listen to the sound of my footsteps on our soft carpet, essential guidance is there to be given. Life, at my lucky age of 80, has become a marvelous mystery, and I depend on the good counsel I get from my everyday teachers – from my breath coming and going, from the sounds of winds and highways, from the look of sunlight on winter’s bare trees. Perhaps best of all, there are the thoughts that rise up inside me like dearest friends that speak their good hints and tips with kindness. These thoughts come from the countries of nowhere and everywhere, and give guidance that’s made of everlastingness. All I have to do is let go, get still, and listen.
A strong wind is blowing this morning, and it makes me think, in a comforting way, of the wind of life that’s always flowing within and around everything. Each moment is a fulfilling puff by the everlasting and loving universe that breathes for all of us – for oceans and skies and squirrels and old dudes at their desks in the early morning. The endless winds of life sweep across all my moments, like this morning’s wind is working powerfully but carefully among the trees and homes in our neighborhood. Every thought I have is a flutter or gust of the boundless, rescuing wind of life, and every feeling that flows through me is part of the sea of feelings that’s been flowing everywhere forever. When I see an old leaf today coasting in the air on the breath of the breeze, I will think of my old, unfastened, 80-year-old self, drifting in delight on the limitless and soothing wind of life.
Today I’m hoping to see the amazing similarities that exist everywhere in the universe. Instead of seeing mostly differences and diversity, which I’ve spent countless days doing in my 80 years, I want to notice the beautiful resemblances that are everywhere – the likeness between winds and my wafting thoughts, between boulders and the solidness of kindness, between the sky and the endless opportunities for friendship. I hope to see the everlasting kinship of all thoughts as they flow from forever to forever, and how lives can look so much like mountains as they magnificently stand together. It could be a ‘day of resemblance’, a special holiday in which the sacred similitude of all things is celebrated – the closeness of disappointment and advancement, of darkness and sunrise, of people and polar bears, of lamplight and a glowing feeling. The universe is a wide-open and welcoming community, in which closeness easily overpowers aversion, and similarity sings the best song. I will definitely be listening today.
I often worry that my life lacks orderliness, that I’m not keeping good care of my files and accounts and duties – and those worries are certainly reasonable. I do have to pay closer attention to important daily tasks. However, it helps to sometimes pause and remember that life itself has a built-in neatness and symmetry. For instance, there is nothing more organized than my moment-to-moment breathing. With no help from me, my chest reliably rises and falls in a well-ordered way – roughly 15,000 times every 24 hours, over and over with fairly perfect uniformity. Also, the approximately 37.2 trillion cells in my body provide structure for it, take in nutrients from food, convert those nutrients into energy, and carry out specialized functions – all in an exceedingly systematic manner. Plus – and I love to consider this – nothing is better organized than the present moment, in which I always live. Each moment is precisely what it is, and is doing exactly what it is doing, and therefore could be said to be always perfectly prepared and organized. And, since I always dwell in the present moment, and am part of the present moment, then, in that sense, I, too, am always perfectly prepared and organized.
Yes, I do seemto be somewhat disorganized, and in a way, I am. However, the real ‘me’ is actually part of the ever-orderly, smoothly flowing present moment, and what I must do is simply pull back the curtain of my own distracting thoughts and see the orderliness that lives at the center of all of life. I don’t have to become more organized. I just have to practice seeing – and being – the tidiness and efficiency that is already everywhere.
I’ve been doing a lot of day-dreaming over the last 80 years, or perhaps I should call it ‘nightmare-ing’: the crazy delusion that I am somehow separate from the rest of reality, that there’s ‘me’ over here, trying desperately to maintain my individual existence, while the rest of the universe is over there, flowing along fairly smoothly without me. It’s like I’m part of an endless and magnificent stream, but trapped beside the bank – an eddy, a circular movement of water counter to the main current, just a small and worried whirlpool beside a river that beautifully rolls along. It’s amazing to me that I’ve been caught in this day-dream for all these years, seemingly trapped in a small, sidelong swirl in the vast and lovely river of life.
Well … at the still ripening age of 80, I am now ready to release myself and roll out into the main and infinite flow of the big river! No more whirlpooling for me – no more hanging on for dear life to the side of this river that can roll me into paradise moment after implausible moment. This day, right now at 5:04 a.m., is smoothly flowing along in a steady kind of bliss, a river with no shores, no start, no end, and I am now releasing myself into its peaceful flow. In a wonderful way, after 8 decades, I have awakened, and I’m allowing myself to disappear into the river of life, leaving little, make-believe ‘me’ back in the lonely eddy. I’m finally ‘letting go’ into a resplendent stream I’ve really never known before. And all at the still-evolving age of 80!
Below is a poem I ‘spoke’ into my phone while walking along the Mystic River. I wrote it down when I got home.
I spend a lot of time each day ‘checking’ things – calendars, emails, the weather, websites – but I’d like to do more of a different kind of checking. I’d like to pause, now and then, to check – maybe even inspect – the present moment. I’d like to take a break and quietly look over exactly where I am and what’s around me and what’s happening with my thoughts. Every so often I’d like to check – carefully scrutinize – what my eyes are seeing – perhaps the keys on my computer’s keyboard, or the swirls of eggs and onions in a saucepan, or simply the carpet as I come through the house. There are many things more worthy of inspection than email messages or the morning’s weather. I could occasionally inquire into how my shoulders feel, how my feet feel as they rest on the floor in front of my desk, how the warm air from the furnace feels as it rises from the basement. I could carefully look at my thoughts as they arrive in my mind – make them welcome, watch them do their work, and then let them wander away. If a thought asks if I’ve checked my email, I could say ‘No, but I just checked the clouds, and they are something special right now.’
When my children were young and we were out walking, I often encouraged them to ‘stay close’, and now, at 80, that phrase has grown very meaningful to me, for I always stay close. Despite my ever-wandering mind, I am always in close proximity to the brand-new present moment, right next to the pristine reality that’s unfolding in the eternal here and now. Truly, I can’t escape being close to it. It’s like the present moment is always holding my hand, always whispering, ‘Stay close, old fellow. I’m always new, and so are you. I’ll always be your friend.’ What I call ‘my life’ is always right alongside the endless life of the universe, always on the doorstep of newness and boundlessness, always within sight of flawless and limitless synchronization. I simply have to open my eyes and see how safe I always am, how inseparable I am from invincible harmony. The truth is that I am a bosom pal of unceasing peacefulness, always within reach of tranquility. I have no choice: I am always close to the continuous quietness of the universe.
No star is ever lost,
and sunshine never
If we say something
to a friend,
those words will last
for years and years.
The doors of friendship we open
will always stay open,
even if they sometimes
seem to close.
The finest hours
of our lives
will never be lost,
and the breaths of kindness
we blow across the world
will stay for centuries,
like the sunshine
that is always
in one place or another
on this earth.
Sometimes, I fantasize about changing my last name to ‘Always’, because truly, ‘always’ is what life is all about. Life always, and in all ways, exists only in the present moment, and the present moment is always endless – always with no beginning, no ending, no boundaries. Also, I am always exactly where I am and always doing precisely what I’m doing. What’s happening in the present moment, right here and now, is somehow always profitable, and, somehow, I – and everyone – will always benefit from it. I always have all the power I need, and so does everyone and everything, and every scene I happen to come upon is always pristine and somehow useful. And all these words in this small essay written by an always young 80-year-old guy named Always will always shine in a weird and wild way for a reader who’s always alert.
about Andy H., 70, Blessings, CT, USA
He takes treasures with him
wherever he goes.
He gives big gifts of kindness
to the clerks at the grocery store,
and endless patience to the gas pumps
as he waits with prosperous wisdom
for his car to be filled.
He brings abundance
to the roads he drives on,
spreading affluence out the window
to drivers and valleys and homes.
He's always ready
with reserves of acceptance,
so so-called problems are easily softened
and disappointments soon disappear
inside the opulence of submission.
He always feels well-off,
as if he owns all the peace in the universe,
which, in fact, he does.
If someone were to ask me today, at the beginning of my 80th year, if I still have any questions about life, I would answer with a strong yes, and would add that I have only questions, and no answers, and that I am very happy because of that. I’m sure this would cause a bewildered reaction, because for most people, answers are far better than questions, and solutions are preferred over predicaments. However, as the poet Rainer Maria Rilke advised a young poet to do, I now actually love my millions of questions and predicaments. Life, for me, has slowly blossomed into a spectacular puzzle, and each moment is, in itself, a beautiful brainteaser. I am usually smiling in the first minutes of the morning, just thinking of the stunning, nourishing questions that await me in the coming hours, and the rewarding puzzles that will be presenting themselves, moment by mystifying moment.