“If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man… Life will be a party for you, a grand festival, because life is the moment we’re living right now,” spoken by the camel driver to the boy; from The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho.
We can experience the Now, moment by moment; but that requires quite a bit of focus. With practice we can have a sense of being in the moment when we are on our yoga mat, in class or at home, moving through asana, pranayama and meditation. When the mind wanders we discipline it back to the breath, to the feeling of being in our body here and now. We might even pride ourselves that we are becoming quite proficient at knowing how to utilise awareness of the sounds, awareness of our experience of the present moment, and become quite proficient at mindfulness as we go about our daily lives.
What if we were to broaden our concept of the present beyond a moment by moment experience and instead see it with a view to our stages of life?
Shakespeare described the seven ages of life as:
- Adolescent Student
- Young Adult Lover
- Mature Adult
with the eighth and final stage being Death and Transition.
The four stages of life in Hinduism are:
- Brahmacharya, the student phase, approx. 1 to 25 years
- Grihastha, the married life phase with duties of maintaining a household, approx. 26 to 50 years
- Vanaprastha, retirement and handing over responsibilities to the next generation, (our grey nomads caravanning phase) approx. 51- to 75 years
- Sanyaas, the phase of giving up material desires and prejudices; the Wandering Ascetic stage, beyond 75 years.
With respectful humour we could see the four phases of life as:
- You believe in Santa Claus
- You don’t believe in Santa Claus
- You are Santa Claus
- You look like Santa Claus (or Mrs Claus)
If we taker this bigger picture view then perhaps we could concentrate on the present as an awareness of experiencing fully the phase of life we are currently in.
For example, instead of Joe making financial decisions today based on what will give him the best outcome for a comfortable life in retirement, it would be wiser to enjoy the time he has now with his family around him. Not all of us survive to be an Elder.
Or perhaps Cherie might not feel so burdened if she gave some energy to having fun with her adolescent friends instead of spending every moment studying towards having the best career in the next phase of her life. Then she might make it that far without burnout.
or Bob and Judy could downsize from their huge family home to a more manageable cottage and garden now that the children have left and started families of their own.
The expectations we have of ourselves in each phase of life need to match the phase of life we are in; and not be looking too far into the future, or dwelling too long in the past.
What is your current age of life? Are you enjoying it now while you can?
“Concentrate on where you are in the present, and life will be a party for you.”