For many years and decades, I had the experience that time was running away from me and the sensation of trying to grasp a retreating shadow, like trying to grasp smoke. It was unpleasant and disturbing. Sometimes I asked others about their experience of time to see if they had this experience too. I never got a clear answer on this.
Only recently I realised the source of this experience – that I live in the past or the future and hardly ever in the present, and for large portions of my life I haven’t actually been there. My life has been going on without me. It’s been a shock to see this clearly, and for this belated and not wholly welcome realisation I have Thich Nhat Hanh to thank. As he says in this devastatingly simple excerpt, for many of us, “Now is not the moment to be alive.”
“We tend to be alive in the future, not now. We say that, ‘Wait until I finish school and get my degree and then I’ll be really alive.’
Then when you’ve got it – and it’s not easy to get – then you say to yourself, ‘I have to wait until I have a job in order to be really alive.’
And then after the job, it’s the house. After the house, it’s a car. And we are not capable of being alive in the present moment. And we tend to postpone being alive to the future, to a distant future, we don’t know when. Now is not the moment to be alive. And we may not be alive at all in all our life.
Therefore the technique, if we have to speak of technique, is to be in the present moment, to be aware that I am here and now, and the only moment for me to be alive is the present moment.”
~ From audiorecording of Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh