Tonight, having dinner with a friend in the oldest restaurant in London, Rules, built in 1798, I am reminded why I have been coming to this beautiful city for 30 years. I adore musical theatre, art museums and history and I find an abundance of all three easily accessible here with the Underground and my two enthusiastic feet!
Surrounded by the past and enjoying friendship in the present, my conversation with Ashok landed on a discussion he’d had the week before with an English chap he’d known for years. His friend had just celebrated his 60th birthday and sat down with himself to calculate, based on statistical information, that he had approximately 15 summers left! This was the non-working time he had looked forward to and planned for every year of his adult life. Now, it seemed to him there were fewer going forward.
This expression, “15 summers” lingered with me for days firstly, that someone would measure their life by summers, and secondly, it reminded me of other discussions in my past about the distinction between having a vision and living in the moment. These two concepts of time have been like lovers inside of me, never wanting separation. As the acorn that has all within it to become an oak, the moment feels full of potential, future, vision. One feels to be creating and breathing into the other. Also, highly intuitive, there have been many times in my life when the moment has given me a transparent glance at what would eventually unfold in the future.
Ashok said that he too had thought more deeply about this conversation and how it caused him to conclude that he tended to live more in the moment. Here is a very playful, spontaneous man so I didn’t find that surprising but he’s also an accomplished surgeon, author, teacher, with a demanding career, and still inspired in his chosen work after more than 40 years. I knew that as much as he thought of himself as living in the moment, he must have believed in his visions for the future many times. He’d also been married. Observing many couples say, “I do” as a wedding officiant over the years, I’ve seen dream seeds in those eyes and an assumption of water. Even if divorce follows as it does for 40-50 % of first marriages, 60-76% of second marriages and 70-73% of third marriages statistically, and did for Ashok too, many years and two children later, there was still once a vision. And there had to be an inspired vision in school, of eventually becoming a surgeon who would help people. Is this treasured spontaneity in the moment that separate from dreaming? Are they really two distinct paths?
I believe this dualistic concept of time has been exaggerated by a more masculine model of “goal setting” which says that we must itemize the individual steps needed to reach a goal and stay singularly focused and driven. Vision, in this model, is reduced entirely to strategizing and will! Like “15 summers”, work hard and then there’s reward at the end. Yet spiritually speaking, we don’t know how many rewards are ahead of us or even what they will actually be! And what looks to us like a complete failure ends up being the reward our souls need most for a richer life. And how many times has it happened to you, the best things in your life have been the ones you didn’t plan? Having a vision doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t be altered along the way and usually is. And will is important too. Sometimes it is exactly the thing I need to begin a meditation sit or to go out for a run. Yet, I feel I am doing something that will have a positive influence on my body/mind in the future. This “chemistry” between will and inspiration, ( remembering the original derivation of this word, inspiration, meant “to breath in God”) can lift the whole mood of the moment.
I am a writer not a painter but creating a vision feels like I have a blank canvass before me and a huge palette of colors! I love the creative process that manifests what I first see in my mind. Quite frankly, being a visionary turns me on! I am in awe of what we humans can create with intention and universal support. And I am mystified by how some of my own visions are delayed, altered and edited out as if there’s an invisible playwright co-creating with me that knows more about the story than I do. I listen to this wisdom that is beyond my own intellect and creativity. If I am not living in the moment I can miss the guidance.
Vision doesn’t take anything away from me around living in the moment, in fact, it can make the moment richer. And living in the moment doesn’t take away from vision; in fact it depends on it. The creative power behind what I have so far envisioned and manifested, for which I am immensely grateful, is not only based on how I listen, but how I remain fluid, as experiences, planned or not, integrate. The universe is supporting me when things go as planned AND when they don’t! Every moment holds an integral part of that unfolding. Relationships, the priority, are my greatest teachers of awareness, especially the most loving and the most challenging. When I become deeply disturbed or completely confused by the events in my life, I know that I am receiving some essential piece of the story I have likely been given before but missed. When I ask for clarity too soon, the answer always comes back as “stillness”.
I don’t know how many summers I have left. None of us do, actually, in spite of statistics, but I do know that beauty, friendship, creativity, nature, diversity, the arts, family and kindness bless my time here on earth and I want to create more of that soul nurturing so that I continually grow my capacity to love, myself included. When I get out of balance rushing the moment for some future reward, I try to remember why I am here. It is never to put love on hold. I believe love is it, all that really matters at the end of our last summer and knowing this, every moment counts, every vision counts, working hard, working soft, and simply being.
Mark Nepo has this lovely story about his father who was happiest at the helm of his sailboat. When someone recently asked him “Which should we listen to, our soul or our will?” Mark remembered his father teaching him how to steer the thirty foot sailboat he was so proud of building. He would say to his son, “It’s the sail that follows the wind and the rudder that follows the sail”. It’s in the moment that my soul receives the wind, the gift of inspired visions AND there is so much joy in feeling how the boat moves when the rudder is steered.