A couple of days ago, it occurred to me that I have lived more than 10,000 days. I felt a little gasp at such a large number, and soon began to wonder what I had done with all of those days. Certainly, I don’t remember many of them, and knowing myself I have spent far too many fretting about things instead of enjoying the day.
The weight of this realization was exponentially magnified when I got clobbered over the head with stories of people dying suddenly and very young (from remembrances on the radio of September 11, to a story about a woman who lost her husband very suddenly, and then a movie about World War II where young soldiers just kept dying). I’ve often been aware in my brain that my life is finite, but at certain moments (like now), I feel it a little more keenly in my body and momentary reality.
But 10,000 days—that is a lot of life, a lot of moments, a lot of time to experience living. I don’t want to say that I regret how I’ve spent them, but there is a part of me that knows I’ve too often been missing the point.
I have been thinking a lot lately about what life is really about. I dwell regularly on success, money, striving to do something great, wanting to feel like I’m doing something worthwhile. But really, what does any of it matter if 10,000 days go by in a flash and you never really felt them because you were so busy striving?
I wrote this question in my journal two days ago: “What would it take to really live in appreciation of each moment? A terminal diagnosis? The death of someone close to me?” We have all heard the stories of revelation that can come along with such dark moments, but who wants it to require such grim circumstances to initiate real deep appreciation of life?
I have had many realizations like this before, and my inclination is always to make some strong resolution to act differently, but most often a few days or weeks later, I’ve gone back to my daily grind. It occurs to me now that there is no way to always live in transcendent appreciation of life, but it is possible to choose in a moment to remind yourself and take a deep breath and experience your life. And it is possible to keep teaching yourself to remember more often (and be kind to yourself when you forget, and use that as another opportunity to remember). I’ve read in Buddhist meditation books about the idea of picking a reminder—something you see or do often—and training yourself to use that as a cue to stop and take a deep breath and be present. Maybe that is a place to start. Always, the time is now. And isn’t that the whole thing? There is only now.
How do you remind yourself to be present? Do you have any tricks or practices?