by Anne Dibala
Almost everyone has experienced at least one harrowing event in which they felt they might have died. An automobile accident or near accident, a fall, an illness. A car speeding past them careening off the road while they were walking along. A kitchen towel you were holding just started to catch fire, and you noticed it immediately. You began to lose your balance while climbing on a ladder. A driver lost control of his vehicle and ran onto the sidewalk right near you.
You might think back to one of the more frightening times that you remember from the past. If it was very dangerous, the mere memory of the event right now might send a chill down your spine, and shivers over your body.
Recall how you felt after the initial shock passed, your heart rate had returned to normal, and your breathing had slowed down and the trembling in your body had ceased. The scenario reverberated in your head. You would relive the experience, the near miss, a number of times as you sat there, calming down. You might very well view in your mind what might have happened if only one small factor had been different.
If the other car had been only a few inches closer, you would have been pushed into the median.
If you had been more distracted the few burning fibers of the towel in your hand might have spread to other flammable items near by.
If the branch of the tree near the ladder hadn't stopped the slippage of the ladder, you would have fallen the twenty feet onto the concrete. The gruesome scenes were vivid in your mind's eye.
If any of these types of events happened when you were a child, these scenes probably affected your parents more than they affected you. They were the ones most terrified, and they experienced the shock, numbness, and panicky feelings. They were the ones who would grasp and then hold you tightly, and cry. It might only be later that you would have a small glimpse of the close brush with death that had occurred.
As an adult, as we begin to recognize the fragility of life, the fine line of a few inches, a few seconds, a few pounds of force that keeps us from the hereafter, we can realize that there may not be any more time to do those things we would like to do.
There may not be another chance to tell our spouse that we are sorry that we lost our temper and yelled at them last night. We might not be able to tell our kid that even though he failed the last test, we still loved him anyway. Despite the harsh lecture and the month's restriction we gave him, we really thought he was a neat kid.
Following an incident which puts us in touch with the fact that once we have ended our short span of time as the physical presence on this planet, we are often filled with a heightened awareness of the physical world, the presence of simple actions that we perform, and sensitivity to people around us, particularly those we hold dear. Colors seem more intense, sounds more acute, tastes more pungent, and emotions more intense. It’s like being a young child again, and experiencing the world as a new, exciting and enticing place. We want to savor each experience and moment. This renewed love affair with life may last for a very short time, a day or two. Often we get caught up again in the day-to-day duties and tasks that life brings with it. We get complacent about the vibrant joys that each day can reveal to us, and we may drift back again into a mundane existence. One mundane day after another ends up becoming a boring week. Several joyless weeks turn into lackluster months, and eventually years. Now, many of us don’t go for months without some joyful occasions. There are holidays, birthdays, and celebrations. Wouldn't it be nice if each day were a celebration?
What prevents us from celebrating each and every day? Is it possible to find something special and unique in each twenty-four hours?
This moment in time, this day, will never be here again. This day is unique. There will never be another Wednesday, November 19, 2003, again. You will never live Thursday, November 20, 2003, again. The same combination of your unique body status, the weather, the people you meet, the moods that you and they are in, will never come together in this unique configuration ever again.
Oh, perhaps, you may see the same people another day, but they will not be in exactly the same mood, the news will not be the same, your kids will not be the same age, you will not be the same age. Hopefully, you, your kids, and your friends will all be a bit wiser and emotionally richer.
Many religions, although exhorting the individual to look to the hereafter, focus on the actions and behaviors of the here and now. Eastern and Western philosophies emphasize how we act and interact with other human beings here on this planet. It is considered psychologically healthy to be mindful of our emotional and physical condition today.
The teaching of mindfulness enables the individual to be in the moment; not to live in remorse and regret for the past, but to learn from it. Living in the moment, in the now, (in the know?) involves the actions of today, being mindful of the behaviors of today. Healthy behaviors today will contribute to healthy, satisfying, and fulfilling tomorrows.
There is a common phrase in the Adidas commercial, "Just do it!" Consider the concept, "Just do it now with all your being."
This is not at all to suggest that we act recklessly, dangerously, or with abandonment. It is a proposal that we engage in all our actions, activities, and interpersonal activities, each moment, with all our physical and emotional attention.
How often we find ourselves talking with another person, writing notes about another matter, while looking at our calendar to check on our next scheduled activity?
How often do we drive along, half listening to another person in the vehicle with the radio on in the background, thinking about what we're going to do when we stop and go to the store?
It's hard to be fully emotionally and intellectually invested with another human being while other activities are fighting to use the same part of our brain. If you thought that this would be the last day that you would be seeing a friend that you're having lunch with today, how would you treat him? Is there anything that you would like to have cleared up with him? Would you listen half-heartedly, distracted by some bothersome incident earlier in the day, like the fact that there was a traffic jam?
If your child started to talk to you when you were trying to read the sports page, would you turn off in your head and continue hiding behind the newspaper and try to ignore him?
How would you spend tonight with your closest friend or person with whom you live?
When is the last time you had a near death experience? Do you know when you will have your next near death experience? It's not necessary to have a terrifying event occur in order to have inspiring, fulfilling, vibrant moments fill each of your days.
May you enjoy each today!
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