Rule #1: Stay Present
Are you always running late? Do you feel that you're always playing catch-up with life?
What if someone told you that you were always right on time?
I was running down York Street in Albany a few years ago because I was late for an appointment, when an angel disguised as a slim, young man, yelled out to me:
‘Why are you always running?’
I saw him briefly as I whizzed past in a short black skirt and high-heeled black boots. By the time I stopped in response and turned back to explain my hurry, he’d disappeared – either into thin air, if he was an angel, or perhaps into the Paperbark Merchants bookshop outside of which I was now standing, bent double, trying to catch my breath.
But I didn’t have time to linger and search for him. I was running late. Off I went again, running.
Later, I recalled his words and was struck by the fact that he used the word always. This implied he’d seen me in York Street many times, and that each time he saw me I was running.
The more I thought about it the more I became aware that I did have this constant feeling that I was running late in my life. It was more than being late as far as the clock was concerned. I was never where I wanted to be. I always wanted to be somewhere else. Not here. Not now. Somewhere else better. In the future.
I’m not alone in this habit. We all absorb it through cultural conditioning.
We’re driven by the fear that we need to get ahead of ourselves so we can keep up.
We need to improve ourselves. We need to move to a better neighbourhood. We need to earn more money. We need to buy the latest computer. We need to make faster-rising bread. We need to open presents while they’re still in the hands of the giver. We need to dry ourselves before we’ve had a shower. We need to get up tomorrow morning before we’ve even gone to bed!
We’re racing ahead of ourselves, not in reality, but in our heads.
The present moment isn’t satisfactory. Now isn’t good enough. It needs improvement. Hence me running down York Street, most days of the working week, whether I had an appointment or not.
So, what can I do about it?
When I was 22 years old and travelling through Europe on my own, I was exactly 24 hours late for a flight from Athens to Perth, Western Australia. This was caused by my incorrectly interpreting a train timetable. When I finally arrived in Athens too late to catch my plane, it was pointless wishing the situation were otherwise. Jumping up and down in frustration wouldn’t make the world spin backwards and land me in yesterday so I could board the aircraft. All I could do in that moment of realisation of the enormous miscalculation I’d made, was to accept that it was so and begin to make new plans around that fact.
The key point to remember is that even when you’re late as far as clock time, you are still in the present moment.
This isn’t an excuse to languish in bed a few more minutes every morning so you arrive at work after everyone else has started today’s tasks, and say, with a tinge of spiritual superiority, ‘I am not late. I am in the present moment, which is perfect timing.’ This won’t endear you to anyone.
Living in the present moment doesn’t make you smug. It doesn’t make you ignore appointment times.
Living in the present moment calms agitating thoughts, allows you to accept where you are right now, and enables pure awareness to arise.
It can seem esoteric, but it’s simple and practical.
Yes, pay attention to the clock when you need to. Try to be on time. But if you are late, don’t panic.
Stay present. Accept that you are where you are. You may need to be elsewhere very soon, and you may even need to run. However, if this is the case, be present in every step you take.
So, if you see me running down York Street again, I won’t mind you pretending to be an angel and shouting a reminder to me to be present in every step I take.
Here's another bit of nature that is right on time at Evergreen:
With love, Marlane