(This week is the 45thinstallment of the book, “The Band Director’s Lessons About Life”, which TCRN is publishing as a series during 2020. This week, band director and spiritual author Donald Lee relates a parable about living in the present moment. For a complete listing of previous episodes in this series, click here.)
It’s being here now that’s important. There’s no past and there’s no future. Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever is the now. We can gain experience from the past, but we can’t relive it; and we can hope for the future, but we don’t know if there is one.
GEORGE HARRISON(British musician and lead guitarist of the Beatles)
“Saxophones, can I hear your part at measure twenty-four?”
As I scanned the saxophone section, I noticed that all eyes were on me except for one pair: Abigail’s. Her left hand rested gently on her alto saxophone, and her right hand was raised, doing something on her music stand. Texting!
“Abigail, put away your phone. This is neither the time nor the place for it,” I said calmly but firmly.
Her eyes instantly flashed to mine, a look of shock on her face—that “caught with your hand in the cookie jar” look.
“But this is important,” she blurted out.
“What’s happening here and now is most important,” I replied. “It’s one of the great spiritual truths of life. You must constantly live right here and right now. Whatever is happening on your phone is definitely not here. And it’s probably not really now either. So, Abigail, please go put your phone in the cell-phone tower.”
Abigail got up and grudgingly walked her phone over to my “cell-phone tower.” I’d bought a cheap, clear-plastic shoe rack at Walmart—the type you hang on the back of your closet door. I’d tacked it up on the wall of my classroom and put a sign over it that read “Mr. Lee’s Cell Phone Tower.” Students are supposed to put their cell phones there when they come into my room. Of course, I start each year being strict about it and then gradually forget until the cell phones start driving me nuts.
I launched into my mini homily while we waited for Abigail to return.
“Many people live most of their lives in the past: past accomplishments, past glories, past memories, past traumas; or in the future: what I’ll do tomorrow, or next week, or next year, or when I’m in grade ten, or after I’ve graduated, or when I’m married, or when I’m divorced, or when I have children, or when the children are gone, or when I’m retired.
“But we cannot act in the past. Like the proverbial water under the bridge, the present moment is here for a second, then gone forever. That water or moment that just passed can never return. We had it for only a second, a second in which to act, then that moment passed forever.
“Neither can we act in the future. The future is like water that is still far upstream. Even though we know it must come, we can only expect its eventual arrival and prepare for it. To do more than that is useless. We cannot act with regard to it until it arrives.
“So the great spiritual truth is that we must live here and now—this present moment, and it’s gone. The next moment, and it’s also gone. Life is a succession of ‘instants’ that come from the future, greet us momentarily, then pass into history. Since we can only act in the present moment and the present place, we must focus all our attention and energy on what is here, now. The more of these ‘instants’ we spend dwelling on the past, thinking about the future, or ruminating on what’s happening somewhere else, the more of our life slips by unused. Waste too many of these ‘instants,’ and we waste our life.
“But Abigail is now back and ready to play, so let’s hear the saxophone section at measure twenty-four.”
Cell phones are a fantastic tool but also a great distraction. They should be our slaves, not the other way around. If the cell phone calls and we must answer, we are its slave. Our possession possesses us. We are bound to this “attachment,” to the material world, and cannot dwell in that state of consciousness that is the kingdom of heaven.
The secret of spiritual awareness lies in constantly being more aware of the here and now: the person right in front of us, the scent of the flowers, the robin singing in the tree. This person speaking—why does she seem upset? How can I help? To truly experience life and the presence of God, we need to focus our attention on the here and now. Life is here, now. God is here, now. We need to be here, now.
So let’s put our phones in the cell-phone tower, either literally or metaphorically, so we can completely be here, now.
We can only act and experience life in the present moment and place. Spiritual awareness means placing all our attention on the here and now.
Donald Lee is a spiritual author and speaker. This article is part of a weekly series for 2020 in which TCRN is publishing his inspirational book, The Band Director’s Lessons About Life: Volume 1 – 50 Parables on Life’s Performance Cycle, in serial form – one parable per week. You can learn more about the author at his website: www.ComingHomeSpirit.com, or order a copy of his complete book on Amazon, or get his free mini eBook and sign up for his weekly blog. Follow Donald on Facebook.