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I laughed out loud when I saw this outside a store’s sidewalk chalkboard: ”One day, you’re young and having fun, and the next thing you know, you’re driving around and turn down the volume to see better!”

If you’re young and having fun, this may not make sense. When you’re my age, though, it’s hilarious – because that’s really what we do!

We’re in such a hurry to grow up when we’re young, to look and act older, so we can feel older. But when you get to be around 40 – or when those first grey hairs or wrinkles appear, you start wishing time would slow down. It is easy to succumb to the barrage of memes, images and messages designed to make us want to stay young forever. We just do not want anything – mostly ourselves – to change.

Except for a few more aches, we don’t feel that different – until we look in the mirror and wonder who that person is staring back. The reality is that everyone and everything changes. Adapting to change can be hard. Why? It may be because we’re happy with things they were and don’t ever want them to change. We’ve become so attached to who we thought we were that we can’t let go, even though that person no longer exists.

How often do we relive a past event, wishing, hoping and wanting it to come back? That does not mean we shouldn’t learn or become wiser from reflecting on past experiences; if, however, we obsessively dwell on the past, we miss life unfolding in front of our noses. So, how do we accord to the inevitable changes that are part of life? We have to understand and accept that the past is, well, past.

As far as the future, that “future” lives only in our imagination and does not exist except in our minds. It doesn’t mean we don’t plan and prepare for the future, but we can create such fear and anxiety by convincing ourselves that a version of the future will happen that we miss what is in front of us, here and now.

Although we think of time in terms of past, present, and future; the only time that truly exists is now. The past is our memory and the future is our anticipation of things that may or may not happen. What is real is this moment of time called “now.”

In the words of Dogen Zenji*, “Reality is always ‘history by means of today, now.”’

*Dogen Zenji is the founder of Soto Zen.

- Martha Choe Roshi


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