It’s the beginning of the month again. Time for the dogs’ heart worm, flea and tick pills, time to change the air conditioning filters, pay the mortgage and all the bills due at the start of the month, balance the checkbook, get food cards from temple. It seems like I just did this last week, but I check the calendar again and yes, a whole month has passed. Just like that. The passage of time is such a funny thing. When I have a lot to do, it seems like there is no time. When I sit to meditate, thirty minutes can feel like an eternity. And the ever-present consciousness of cumulative passage of the time of my life, like the fact that in less than five years, my home will be an empty nest and the age of children in my home is gone forever and that I will be a half century old before that, reminds me, in the spirit of Isaiah, I might as well eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow I will die.
In his book The Time Keeper, Mitch Albom similarly lamented, “Try to imagine a life without timekeeping. You probably can’t. You know the month, the year, the day of the week. There is a clock on your wall or the dashboard of your car. You have a schedule, a calendar, a time for dinner or a movie. Yet all around you, timekeeping is ignored. Birds are not late. A dog does not check its watch. Deer do not fret over passing birthdays. Man alone measures time. Man alone chimes the hour. And, because of this, man alone suffers a paralyzing fear that no other creature endures. A fear of time running out.” The only salve for this fear is to pay attention, to be awake, to be present for the fleeting hours of our time here on earth. Not to know what “time” it is but to be aware of all that is present at any given time, and to experience the fullness of any given moment.
Being present to what is is a central theme in Jewish mystical tradition. In the Friday night liturgy in the 5th verse of Lecha Dodi, we chant, “Hitoreri, hitoreri, ki vah orech” which means “Wake up, wake up, your light has already come!” This verse points to a simple truth: we don’t have to change anything to “see the light” of the miraculousness and preciousness of our lives. We simply need to wake up, or better, to pay attention, to what is already there.
It may be hard for some of us to believe that this month begins 2017. With what did we fill last year? Were we sleeping or were we awake for some of it? Can we stop the metaphorical clock more often and bathe in the flow of many present moments and extend the fullness in this coming year?