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What are you doing Now

The other day, I asked my students a horrible question. I asked them what their plans were for the summer.

They all ticked off things like they have been mindlessly trained to do. As they each eagerly told me of their trips and jobs and outings, it struck me as sad that we were wasting the present moment talking about things that may or may not come.

As many of my dear readers know I am in the middle of listening to a book by Eckhart Tolle called The New Earth. I recommend it not only for it’s philosophical observations, but also for safe driving purposes. Since I started it I’m averaging 5-10 miles less per hour. Why speed when I’ve got an ego to destroy?

The section I listened to this morning on the way to the pulmonologist was about the past and the future. Tolle posited the theory that the future is simply a construct of thought. It isn’t real. Neither is the past. The only thing that actually is, is now.

I’m not totally sure how I feel about that. I have a scar on my stomach that assures me that the past was real. There are photo albums and stories of people who knew me when. But that’s all those experiences are now- stories. Stories that I can either let go or choose to keep experiencing.

When it comes to the future, however, I think he is spot on.

One of the advantages of getting chemo is that gives me great incentive not to think about the future. It makes no sense for me to ruin today fretting over how I may or may not feel next week. But there are other more subtle parts of the future that will keep my brain occupied around the clock. Worries about money, jobs, health. Will the Cubs win tonight? What’s for dinner? Is the traffic going to be bad? Will that person take advantage of me? What will my wedding day look like? Will I die in a horrible plane crash? Will I get dementia? Will my children be successful? Will people like this blog? Will I get that part? Will people come to my show or will it just be me talking to an empty house? Or worse will there only be a handful of people there, feeling sorry as I pour my heart out on stage?

Why do we waste our life thinking about these fantasies? These figments of our ego riddled imaginations? Is it because in order to kill time the last few weeks of school our teachers made us think about our summer plans, training us to not live in the present? God I hope not. I always say wiggle your toes and be where your feet are but it really ought to be shake your head and tell your brain to be where your feet are. My feet are fine. They’re just hanging out along for the ride. It’s my brain that’s the problem. It’s the thoughts and the stories that keep me separated from the present moment, the only thing that’s real.

I swear I did not smoke pot this morning. All I know is that whenever I get the urge to ask that question again, instead I’m going to ask, “What are you all doing right now?” It would be a much shorter conversation shrouded in strange looks, but at least it’d be a more honest question.


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