“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” — Buddha
The first time I looked death inthe face I was 7-years-old. I saw my beloved grandfather Charles in an open coffin. He had a red bruise on his forehead because he had fallen against the sink in the bathroom of his house and hit his head when he had a heart attack.I was very upset about the red bruise on his forehead. That was almost more upsetting to me than his motionless body. He might be sleeping in the casket, but he shouldn’t be walking around with a bright red bruise on his forehead.
That night at home, after the funeral, I asked my mother when she tucked me in bed, “What happens to people when they die?” She said that though a person’s body may die, his or her soul lives on. I liked that answer. It made sense to me then and it still does today. When we die, I think we all go to heaven and meet up with God. I think everything that is mysterious to us now will be clear to us then. I also believe that we were originally with God and that is why we long to be with him/her again. Our souls are connected to God and we yearn to be closer to this primal force.
One way I feel most connected to God is through singing sacred music because it expresses the inexpressible. In particular, it beautifully expresses our longing for God. For example, one song written by Giovanni Palestrina, Sicut cervus, includes the words, “As a heart longs for the flowing streams, so longs my soul for thee, O God…” On the web, it said this piece of music is considered to be “one of the great musical masterpieces of the Church and by many accounts the most outstanding example of religious choral art from the Renaissance.”
Now people don’t usually go around talking about their longing for God, but it is socially acceptable to express this desire in song. There is much more freedom of expression possible with music. In addition, through music your ego goes away. You aren’t busy thinking about the past or future. You are very much in the moment. And being in the moment is where God can be found.
As spiritual guru and bestseller author Eckhart Tolle writes in A New Earth, Awakening to Your Live’s Purpose, when we are thinking about the past or future, we are not really living our life. We are no longer in the present moment and that’s the most important place to be. As Tolle writes, “Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time — past and future — the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.”
Being in our ego, or stuck in our head preoccupied about something, rather than being where we are now and with who we are now keeps us from truly enjoying our life. When we are stuck in our ego, we are always somewhere else rather than in the here and now.
When I was still working full-time and raising two children,I was always thinking about what I had to do next. Life was just an endless series of tasks to complete. This was a stressful way to live and it made it hard to relax and enjoy the moment when you are always thinking about what you have to do later that day or what you would like to on the weekend.
One activity that really helps to stop the incessant ego chatter is singing. If you don’t have the voice for it, I also recommend meditating, stopping to appreciate beauty in art or nature, and any other acts that are about being, rather than doing. By being in the moment we can better connect to the place where God resides.
I realize this can be hard to do, of course. For example, I have a friend who I take yoga with who says she cannot stop thinking when she tries to meditate. “What are you thinking about when you meditate?” I asked her. “Nothing important, just things like what I need to buy at the supermarket later today.” Does this sound like you? If so, remember that learning to meditate and be in the moment takes time and practice. But you can do this if you decide it is important enough to you.
Life Lessons: Being in the moment, rather than focusing on events in the past or on what might happen in the future, is a good way to connect with the beauty, the wonder and the sacredness of the world. Stop looking at your phone. Slow down and appreciate life. Listen to the bird that sings in the tree, stop to look at the beautiful sunset. Appreciate the beauty of the stone you find on the street. Eat mindfully. Breathe slowly and deeply, with the intent of calming down your mind. Meditate. Do yoga. And of course, there is nothing like singing to get yourself into the present moment.
4 thoughts on “Lesson Three: Connect to the Sacred”
Being in the here and now is not easy to accomplish…that is why it is called ‘practice’ let the thoughts come, acknowledge them then let them go….I have been working on this for years, without much success I have to admit…it is only in retirement that I can afford myself the luxury to sit and be still, to just ‘be’. The Covid situation has gifted to me (and many I suppose) time…..time to be still, time to just be…..time to be ‘mindful’ I can’t stop it now as it is so pleasurable….I walk mindfully, eat mindfully, set about my tasks mindfully and am finding some peace…..I loved this article Nancy. It makes me feel ‘at home’.
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Glad to hear you enjoyed my article and that you are living mindfully.
Another thoughtful post. Buddhist quote “If you looking into the past, you’re facing the wrong direction”
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Everyone should sing, whether they have the voice for it or not. Sing while you do housework, the ironing or gardening etc. It is good for the soul. I prefer belting out Rock and Roll but my favorite gospel song is the Prayer of St. Francis. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=34&v=dTVXJsTI_b0
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