Friday, October 15, 2010

The Dance Called Time

A new film by Julie Taymor coming out in December

If you've been reading my blog for any time you probably know that from time to time I take a look at the past: my life yesterday, my life a few years ago, my childhood. I look at the past to illustrate the present, to see where I've been and what brought me Here. I don't spend much time there, in the past, not a good habit, nor do I have the desire to do so. I don't yearn for what was, whether it was six days ago, six months ago, six years ago, or my childhood (not six decades, but getting close). I prefer to spend my time in the present and I strive to stay present to each moment, to what Life offers Here. But, I have some mighty fine memories and sometimes they get called up in this process of writing and they seem befitting, appropriate for the ideas that are percolating in my noggin.

I was thinking about how we view our lives, individually and collectively. It's a notion that gets a lot of press, this notion of staying in the Now, and I'm a firm believer that it's essential to our well-being, on every level. I love the book, Be Here Now, by Ram Dass. I like the format and what it teaches about staying in the Now. Published in 1969, it was originally distributed as a pamphlet by the Lama Foundation, then gifted to the Hanuman Foundation for more widespread distribution. But, consider if you will  (Twilight Zone?): try having a conversation that is totally in the present. I mean it. Try it. Try it with your significant other, a friend, or a small group of friends. See where the conversation goes, watch the words you use. Be honest about what is happening, no caveats. I've done this with a small group of friends and it's an interesting exercise. It gets kinda boring. Actually, it gets real boring. And real repetitious. How much can you say about the present moment?

To wit: it's another beautiful moment here in north central Minnesota. The sky is blue, the sun is shining, it's rather chilly. The light falling across my living room chair is lovely, soft and warm against the polished stump I call an end table. Oops, now it's gone. My coffee maker is gurgling, reminding me to shut it off. Oops. Too late. It's done. A squirrel is in my yard. Oops, he's gone. That was then. This is now.

See?  It ain't easy. And did I mention kinda boring?

Let's use another somewhat larger example: the stars. I was thinking about the stars (imagine that!) and I remembered that every star we see is long gone, burned out a looong time ago. Should we stop looking up at them, "recalling" them, honoring them? I don't plan to any time soon and I bet you don't either. It's fun and brings meaning into my life. Along with a whole host of other ideas, memories that are in  "the past."

Remember my post two days ago? The video ended with the phrase "the future is now." Or, how about a more widespread  and probably more well-known example: "what is past is prologue." It comes from Shakespeare's play "The Tempest."  I like to look at the entire exchange, but for this purpose, the entire phrase: "What is past is prologue, what to come, in yours and my discharge."  As I see it, it's all really aspects of  Now: the past, the present, and the future. Our personal history shapes our present and our future. Our collective history does as well. Can we outrun it? Outwit it?  I doubt it. Can we transform it ? Transcend it?  Darn tootin'. It's been done. Time and time again, on a personal level. Saul, as he was transformed into Paul on the road to Damascus, is my favorite example. All traditions, spiritual and otherwise, have them. Collectively, it seems to be taking a bit more time...or is it?

                      "The Tempest"  Eugene Delacroix

I love witnessing the unfoldment of life, mine, yours, ours. It's all the same. Perpetual beauty, if we choose to see it. Yes, it sometimes appears challenging, Very challenging. But, I have said this before and will say it again: it all brought me Here. Now. To this fine moment, to this beautiful place. I hope you find yourself  here, too, in this fine moment, in this beautiful place.

I circle around God, the primordial tower, and I circle ten thousand years long; and I still don't know if I'm a falcon, a storm, or an unfinished song.

~Rainer Maria Rilke


  1. This is such a thoughtful post, it really means something as this last year has been a learning year for me, I have become aware of so much. Now is all we have, the past carries memories some of which are very beautiful but it is this moment that matters.
    The Rilke quote is wonderful.

  2. As I was reading your challenge to speak of only the here and now, it really demonstrated to me how fluid time is. (I was imagining conversations in my head since I'm alone in my office right now). Nothing stays still. Then you illustrated that in the next paragraph. I'm one of those who is constantly thinking about the past and afraid of the future. Probably my upbringing and tragedies that happened early in life. This is a good reminder to try to stay in the moment.

    "You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leaves your arms too full to embrace the present." ~Jan Glidewell

  3. Rilke is becoming quite popular here in blog land as of late....and I love it! I've never thought of the moment as boring...which explains a lot about myself! ha! I tend to focus on the moment while it seems my world is vacillating most of the time. Where I am in that point in time is usually an indicator of a direction needed in my present moment....I imagine my emotions play a big part in this too.
    Wonderful much to ponder on. and love your movie choices. I'm anxiously awaiting the new Clint Eastwood film titled Hereafter.
    Have a wonderful weekend.

  4. I spent a LOT of hard years trying the bury the past and slay the unmanifested future. It took Zen Buddhism to teach me about Now. Attachment's a bitch and impermanence seems an impossible concept to grasp at times, but within those tenets lies my absolute sanity. Without them, I'm just an empty sock flailing in the wind. Living in the Now = living in peace.

  5. Marilyn, It has been a year of learning for me, as well. It has really taught me to stay in the Now.

    Gail, I love your quote by Jan Glidewell. Very apropos.

    Maggie's Garden, I should probably clarify: I Never find the moment boring. But trying to stay there, in a conversation with someone, is not easy and can be difficult to continue on that basis. That was the idea I was trying to convey. I am really looking forward to late fall/early winter movie season.

    Kristy,I absolutely agree, living in the Now = living in peace. It is my ongoing practice, but writing includes my "past," which I don't see as my past. I see it all as Now. There is no past and no future, ultimately. IMHO.

  6. Teresa, you're such a wise woman. I love your post and the words from Rainer Maria Rilke. I have been thinking much about this in the recent past (= since your post).

    For I live in the wonderful now, and soon it will be the past..... there will be a now in the future which I'm scared of, but I'll try to do what Søren Kirkegård just said to me that it is not advisable to fight future. I'll be in the ever floating Now and enjoy it......

    I love too, what Walt Whitman says here on your page about every hour of the day. Hasn't he got some lovely eyes?
    I found this from Goethe in my note book:"We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise we harden."

    Teresa, you have really given us something to think about! Thank you!

    Have a nice week-end, I'm now going out in nature to see what is happening today. The sky is clear with beautiful clouds in the distance. The stars were so bright this night. It is cold. Frost this night. I have found my winter-jacket!
    Grethe ´)

  7. Grethe, Waking to your thoughtful and loving comments is a wonderful way to begin this day. Thank you, so much.

    I like what Kierkegaard says about the ever floating Now. Enjoying it is so important.

    Yes, Walt Whitman's eyes are lovely and so alive, even in that image, that he still feels Present. : )
    I like the Goethe quote. So very true. Thank you for sharing it.

    I trust you are out and about, enjoying a beautiful day. I went outside just after dark and looked up at the night sky, too. There was the Big Dipper, just over the tree tops.

    Stay warm, dear heart.

  8. This is only a small example, but I am so loving the color and light of this incredible autumn that I just don't let myself think about what is around the corner. It's funny how many people introduce the bleak cold reality of winter-to-come into a pleasant conversation about a warm fall day. I used to let it ruin my enjoyment. Now I just bring the conversation back to Now.

  9. Teresa, I love how you write and ponder. I'm reminded of the importance of staying in the now, as I tend to wander into the future. I'm grateful these days to be okay with my past, as it haunted me for decades.

    We are having a sunny, dry autumn and I'm grateful for morning walks in it.

  10. Nancy, Autumn is the perfect time to practice it, to be present to each gorgeous day, and it has been one after another, hasn't it?

    Linda, So many people are haunted by their past. How wonderful when you can let go and just keep moving forward. Good for you. And, moving forward, for you, involves your upcoming trip to Italy. Have a ton of fun!

  11. Teresa,
    Rilke, one of my favorites. There is definitely a thread from our past that leads us to the present. Then I wonder if that thread continues on or is it solely the stars we were born under that shapes our lives.
    Another great blog to ponder and ponder.
    Could you please do me a favor and check to see if the photos come thru now on my blog. I can see them now. Thanks so much.

  12. Manzi, still no photos of Cal's statue and such. It goes into a "Not logged into aol" prompt, but that shouldn't create a problem. I'll check back again later... I look forward to seeing them.

    Thanks for visiting and commenting. I'm still not certain about the role the stars play in our lives. I have an opinion, but it's only an opinion and I'm not sure I'm ready to set off that firestorm! LOL

  13. Teresa,
    Thanks for checking. It's funny, it shows up on mine but another person said the pics didn't show so I took the post off for now. I'll put it up again later when I get the photos figured out. The photos were the best part. The likeness is remarkable. Hope you're having another one of those Minnesota perfect Sundays. Love and Peace

  14. I'm meeting with a bunch of my girlfriends, this week, for dinner. Staying only in the present, with this group, will be impossible. We'll spend several hours laughing, reminding and generally tormenting each other about things that have gone on in our past. I'm wondering if attachment and "right" intention, "right" speech...things like that, keep us from really being in the past. We are truly present in our lively, sometimes, very lively conversations. I'm feeling that the attachment to the past, rather the conversation about the past, may be the issue. hmmm...does this make sense?

  15. Absolutely. Exactly the sense I was trying to share, but you did so with this fine example. Thank You! Yes! Lively conversation can be a wonderful way to be Present, sharing fun experiences from "the past." I agree wholeheartedly, it's attachment to the past that's the bugaboo. I do not tolerate it very well when people attempt to reminisce, as though something has been lost... No can do. I do, however, love the kind of time you will soon have with your girlfriends. Have a great time. Enjoy!