I am celebrating my birthday this month. I usually allow the occasion to slip by fairly quietly. The artist Paul Gauguin has a famous painting Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?. A birthday can be occasion to reflect on these questions each year. It makes sense that we spend a portion of this day looking back on our life’s journey and making resolutions about how we plan to adventure ahead.
The pitfall in this Gauguinian reflection, however, is that because one question is past-oriented and one question is future-oriented, we can get lured into either nostalgia or desire. When we are younger, we look ahead to upcoming years and the privileges that come with them, such as driving and other adult freedoms. When we are older, we start longing for the days of playing with friends and not paying bills. We start wondering what would have happened had we made different decisions, such as majoring in a different area of study. We are never where we want to be, and therefore the answer to What Are We? can be a tainted one.
Finding balance between past and future leaves us with only one option - to observe the present moment. How we define the present moment, and ultimately ourselves, first requires us to steady the swing of time until it settles and becomes still.
One of our teacher trainees recently reminded me of a beautiful quote from Pema Chodron’s Wisdom of No Escape: “Every moment in time has enormous energy in it.”
The best part is that you don’t have to wait for your birthday to receive this wise gift. Observe the present moment. The whole year can be an adventure marked by many observed, energetic moments. For that matter so can this afternoon…or even right now.
Before you adventure, OBSERVE.
- TaraMarie Perri
photo by Sophie Kuller