I don’t often go through the archives of my past paintings, but recently I looked at this one, entitled Present Tense. I chose this title because, when I met this man, his direct gaze hit me as coming from someone who clearly resided in the present moment. I’m continually drawn to painting older faces. My intuition tells me this is because I am seeking out a wisdom that often comes with age – wisdom that has made peace with the past, and no longer fixates on a future idyllic state. I sold this painting very soon after completing it, and I miss having the real thing hanging on my wall to remind me to come back to the present moment, especially when I have strayed into realms of analyzing and wanting a “do-over” for the past, or obsessing about the future.
When I was jotting down a few notes before beginning this post, a powerful realization smacked me in the face. I often get lost in thought, or in “doing” to avoid the present moment. It is as though my chatty mind keeps proclaiming it is the real me and, therefore, is invested in keeping me lost in a world of thought. I confess, I am addicted to doing and achieving. Might many of our modern-day addictions, not just drugs and alcohol, but digital addictions, be manifestations of not being at peace with the present moment? Has Descartes’ famous pronouncement “I think, therefore I am” fueled a massive case of mis-identification – one that robs us of an ability to be present?
My life in Italy is dramatically different from my life in the States – especially here in the hills of Umbria, where I observe many people who aren’t hurrying through life and trying to power through a long to-do list. I’m struck by the amount of people I observe quietly sitting and taking in the world around them. I feel a temptation to judge these people as “not having a life”, when in fact they probably are great teachers in being grounded in the now. Why do I waste so much time worrying about the future, and rehashing the past? Most of that is just plain useless, and steals energy away from dancing with life in the present tense.
Yesterday ended last night. Every day is a new beginning. Learn the skill of forgetting. And move on. – Norman Vincent Peal
The present moment is continually offering us opportunities to start again. No need to beat ourselves up when we stray out of the present moment. We’re learning, bit by bit, to undo a life of conditioning and to navigate our way back to where life truly exists.