This is an edited version of an episode of Noah Rasheta's podcast Secular Buddhism:
The Journey of Life
I wanted to talk about the concept of being alive. Because the miracle is that we're alive at all. The fact that we exist on a rock floating through space is the miracle. We don't know how long, we hardly know anything, but here we are: we're flying through space on a rock. And when we can grasp the importance of the present moment, because the present is all that we have, I think that we can enjoy it more.
It's interesting to think about the present moment, and to recognize that the present is an experience that you've never had before and that you'll never have again. Whatever it is that we're going through is unique. It only exists here, and it only exists now. We can look forward to things in the future but then, when those things come, you're experiencing them in the present. It's always the present. That's all we have. There's no such thing as future or past, these things exist conceptually in our minds; the experience is only there in the present. We'll wake up tomorrow, and it's the present. If you could go back in time, you'd be in the present again. It's always the present.
And what are the implications of understanding the notion of the eternal present moment; when we can start to see today as the most unique today that there's ever been because this today, right now, is the today that we have? You'll never be able to have anything other than what you have in the present moment. That's what can make the present so meaningful, because we make it meaningful when we understand how unique it is.
That also extends into the uniqueness of the life you're experiencing. What you know, what you have right now, will never be repeated. And one of the things that happens when we can sense that, and we sense the uniqueness of the present moment, is that we become determined to really, authentically live. We want to make the best of the life that we have, and we want to be the very best version of us that we are. It's not necessary to get caught up in the idea of how it should be, or what we should be. We become content with just being whatever we are.
And I think this is exemplified in a quote by Pablo Picasso. He said, "My mother said to me, if you are a solider, you will become a general. If you are a monk, you will become the pope. Instead, I was a painter, and became Picasso." I love that, because the lesson is that he could be anything, and what he became is him. He became Picasso. And now, when we hear that quote and we think "I want to be like Picasso" we miss the whole point. He found himself and became the best him that he could be.
That's how it is for us as we go through this journey of life. You have the opportunity to be the very best version of you that you can be. All you can ever be is you. You're the only one who's ever been and who ever will be. Life is miraculous because it's unique. It will never happen again, and when I think about that from my perspective it makes everything beautiful. I think that's really the essence of what it means to become enlightened. It's to be able to just learn to be with what is, to see and experience everything as it is, without any of the conceptual attachments that we typically add. To think: Well, that means I'm supposed to be happy. That's a concept. There is no right or wrong way of living a life. You simply experience it in the uniqueness of the present moment, however that moment is.
That means that when you're unhappy you recognise it. When you're mad, you recognize it. That's just how the present moment is for me. When I'm happy, I'm experiencing happiness, and I'm experiencing all of it, with the awareness that this is the only moment I have. Everyone, every single one of us, is unique. And yet, every single one of us is the same. It's our uniqueness that makes us the same; it's the recognition of the difference that is our oneness. And I love that concept. When you walk into a garden and you're enjoying the garden, it's because it's made up of uniqueness. There are flowers, some flowers are red, some are blue, there are bushes, there are different kinds of trees and even inside the oneness of a tree there are different elements. There's the trunk and the leaves and acorns and whatever else: it's the uniqueness of every component that makes up the whole. It's the garden. I'm enjoying the garden. But there's no such thing as "garden"; there's just everything that makes up a garden.
And it's the same for us as we go through life. There's just life. And here we are, we're a part of it. Without any effort on our part, we suddenly came into existence here. It has nothing to do with your willpower, or... Nothing to do with you at all. It has everything to do with the actions of others; the causes and conditions that made you come into existence. I find it so interesting how we are suddenly here, existing for no reason with no effort on our part, and yet we develop this sense of ego where life becomes so important. We go through life with that mentality of: What is life going to be without me? How is it going to manage? Yet it does, because it's never been about you. What makes you so special is that there's nothing special about you. We're all unique.
And I think that's what makes life so beautiful. I love knowing that, if something were to happen to me, nothing changes. Life goes on. That's the beautiful thing about life.
Every moment is different; every moment is changing. The moment after you blink, and take a breath, it's a whole new moment. And that's what we can awaken to, the reality of the ever-changing nature of the present moment even though the present moment's all you'll ever have. And I hope that with that understanding can come an awakening of sorts to the magic of reality. The magic of the present moment, and the beauty of every moment. Even the beauty of the moments that aren't beautiful. Each one of them is unique; a new experience that we've never had before.
Noah Rasheta is a Buddhist teacher, lay minister and author, as well as the host of the podcast Secular Buddhism. He teaches mindfulness and Buddhist philosophy online and in workshops all around the world. He studies, embodies and teaches the fundamentals of Buddhist philosophy, attempting to integrate Buddhist teachings with modern science, humanism and humour. He lives in Kamas, Utah, with his wife and three kids. You can listen to the full episode here.