I was never that big of a Star Wars fan, but Charlene was. Back in school, she would geek out over Star Wars with my friend James (who seemed to own only Star Wars t-shirts), and she was super excited about Episode I: The Phantom Menace (and then being super disappointed like all of us were).
That’s why I thought about her when watching the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens; I think Charlene would have loved it. But she won’t be seeing it.
I’ve tried to get my wife to meditate, but she says she can’t stand the boredom. She’s surprised that I can sit there for 20 minutes or more, doing nothing at all.
But even though it looks like I’m not doing anything from the outside, on the inside I can be waging a desperate battle, wrestling with a workout more intense than any physical exercise I’ve ever done.
Even though I may be physically still, my mind doesn’t want to be still. It wants to do anything other than this, to be anywhere other than here.
This doesn’t just happen during meditation, but in every moment of our lives. Meditation just makes it starkly apparent.
How many times have you listened to a friend talk while wondering what to have for lunch? Or lusted after a new toy, while forgetting about the one you already have (and once lusted after)? Or was having a wonderful time, and then brought yourself out of it by thinking, “This is great, but wouldn’t it be better if …”?
How many times have you wanted to be anywhere but here, at anytime than now?
But that’s impossible.
You can’t be anywhere than where you are now, reading this sentence.
The secret to meditating for 10, 20, or even 60 minutes isn’t in ‘having no thoughts.’ It’s in bringing your awareness back to the present moment: only here, only now.
You don’t sit for 10, 20, or even 60 minutes. You only sit for now.
When you can go to that place, that full awareness of the only time there is, it becomes easier to sit. It sounds simple, yet it’s the hardest thing I know.
Slowly, through this training of the mind by focusing on the breath, I bring this awareness to the rest of my life. Be here. Now. Breathe in, breathe out.
Now. Now. Now.
Even though she was within my circle of friends, I was never close with Charlene. Which makes it odd that I think of her more than I did before.
I think it had to do with the way she died.
In the last years of her life, Charlene became a motocross enthusiast. I’d see pictures on Facebook of her and her bike getting muddy over weekends. She’d always been someone who lived life full throttle, but this was another level.
She was riding with her friends to Thailand from Singapore, and somewhere along the way, a driver from the opposite lane tried to overtake his lane and struck her.
Charlene didn’t make it back.
At the funeral, I saw some of my oldest friends cry. But to be honest, I didn’t know how to cry for her. Instead, I felt something different; an admiration for the way Charlene lived. She lived the way she wanted, pursued the dreams she wanted, and died in fierce pursuit of those dreams.
Sometimes, while I’m going about my day, she’ll appear in my mind, and I’ll think about how she lived, and whether what I’m about to do is how I want to spend the time I have left.
I’ve lived five years more than Charlene did. She never saw our friend James get married, or knew that there was going to be a new Star Wars movie after the prequels.
But I don’t think of myself as five years separate from her. I think of myself as only a breath away. Tomorrow isn’t promised any of us, it wasn’t promised for her, and it isn’t promised for me. Sometimes, staring at this fact makes me gasp for air, like I’m looking down into a black hole from which there’s no escape.
There’s no remedy I know for this suffocating fact other than to simply take a breath, and remember that this moment is the only one any of us will ever have, no matter how long or short our lives, no matter how long or short our time together.
It is invaluable, and when we spend our attention away from it, we waste it. Wishing we were anywhere but here, and anytime but now, we waste it. Breathe in, breathe out.
Now. Now. Now.