Just this, just now, just today
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 13, 2013 – 12:00am
Years ago, I was able to go to Nepal and found the country to be very exotic. To me, one of the amazing encounters I had was with what the Nepalese call or regard as the Kumari Devi.
The Kumari Devi is a pre-pubescent girl who is regarded as a living goddess and, as tradition has it, is not just the manifestation of Vishnu but has the sole power to declare legitimacy to the King’s reign. This was the time before the monarch was abolished. She was/is regarded as divine. And to see her countenance, one had to offer sacrifice or money and put it inside a bowl in the courtyard before calling out her name. It was up to her whether she felt like responding by looking out of her big window on the second floor, or not. To my complete delight, it was only my voice that she liked to respond to among many who would call out her name that day. Twice she gave a fleeting appearance by the window when I called her. I felt blessed.
Every Sunday, I feel like the Kumari Devi who makes an appearance but in my case, it is through my column. Like her, I wish to surprise, delight, or engage those who wait for my article. But unlike her, my appearance is clearly scheduled and this ends the comparison to the divine representation that she is. I do not have the luxury to refuse or to wait for the spirit to move me. My column must be ready for my readers.
I have kept my column going for a few years now, and I am amazed how I have continued this long even if I am mortified and intimidated just thinking how I am committed to submit at least one column every week for the foreseeable future. That makes 53 more articles just for this year. Whew! This alone could give me permanent writer’s block if I indulged in the thought even for just a few minutes.
Thankfully, I think that through the years, I have begun to finally master one thing that used to stand in the way of getting things done and being happy with myself. I am learning to deal with things one at a time. I have learned to remind myself to stay in the moment. “No thinking too far ahead. No to over-anticipating too many things,” I tell myself often.
In the past, I knew for sure, I could always get things done. I know myself to be reliable and am proud of it. I deliver as expected. And while I could do that, I could never guarantee to myself what shape I would be in by the time I got things done. Often I would be sleep-deprived, over-critical of my work, and too tired and spent.
During my early APO days, I remember how I would prepare myself for a big concert, and would practice to death and anticipate and worry over lyrics, harmonies, vocal quality, presence, audience reaction, flow of the program, repertoire, lights, sound and the other things that are part of a show. I was always super-vigilant and would make sure everything was going right. I often amazed myself at how much energy I had.
In the process though, I would often get so tired and exhausted that I would have a hard time getting into the groove of just simply enjoying myself, my group and the audience when we did the much-awaited concerts. Sometimes my voice would suffer. I would be hoarse on the day of the show due to over-rehearsing, and not doing things right due to lack of sleep. My concentration was on too many things. I was spread out too thinly.
As a result, even when the show was good, I could not relish and enjoy it that much since I was always too focused on what would/should come next. I often had the attitude of just wanting to finish the show and get it over with.
It took me quite a while to learn to relax, and just do my part while trusting all the other people in the production to do their jobs and let things flow and take care of themselves.
When I started to do Zen meditation, I was floored to discover the attitude of letting go and not clinging to results or expectations. It was such a radical thought to me. Sure, it was noble and professional to do one’s best and all that. But yes, it was equally important that I did not burn out, or continue a practice that was not physically, emotionally, psychologically or even artistically sustainable, and enjoyable. And the only way to do things was to be simply present in whatever I was doing. Just this. Just now. Just today. “THIS (whatever I was engaged in) is all there is. THIS is what matters now,” I used to tell myself.
The present was the only thing that was real. The past and present were illusions that were draining my energies because I obsessed needlessly about them. During those days, I felt that even my originality and my enjoyment were crammed in a box. Because I was coming from the past, or fixated on results, I was stuck on how things used to be done. I could not allow myself to have space to be moved by the inspiration coming from the present.
When my father-in-law was dying of cancer, we saw him suffering and it was painful for all of us. He was waiting to die and every day that came and went that saw him still alive made things harder for him. To me, he was over-anticipating dying. He was dying to die.
A few times, I would sit down with him and try to engage him in the moment. Subtly and naturally, I would try to lead him to “just this, just now, just today.” We talked about how he was feeling right now without worrying about the pain that would come tomorrow. I felt I often succeeded in making him aware of the present. We would just talk and be engaged in the moment. No yesterdays. No tomorrows. Just today. It was so simple and uncomplicated. And yes, it was liberating.
I noticed that he would often calm down and even lighten up. We talked about my grandchild Ananda since she always delighted him. We also talked about light and serious things, about who his nurse looked like to feeling God’s presence in the room especially in this moment of suffering. I felt there was much authenticity, truth, beauty and yes, compassion in those conversations.
“What could possibly be wrong with right now,” writer Eckart Tolle asked in his book, The Power of Now. His answer was “Nothing.” He pointed out that the only time the present becomes problematic is when we contaminate it with the past or the future.
I write all this down in the same spirit. What you read is my take on the moment. It is spirit, or the breeze blowing the jasmine of inspiration. One might say, for good or bad, that this is the “state of my writing” right now. I may be better some days and worse on other days. And I am cool with that. This is what it is. Just this. Just now. Just today.
Have a great now!
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