“Buddhist mindfulness is about the present, but I also think it's about being real. Being awake to everything. Feeling like nothing can hurt you if you can look it straight on.”
Being real is less common than you'd think. Being willing to live in your own skin without judgment, and be present to all that goes on within and around you, is not the usual way of being in the world these days. We have highly unrealistic expectations in terms of appearance, for one thing. We're living longer, and with that comes all the natural effects of living in an aging body—which is somehow a surprise to us. The longer life we want, the aging body we don't. In the words of poet Robert Bly:
“...You thought your life would look
like your bedroom mirror when you were ten.
That was a clear river touched by a mountain wind...”
(“Resemblance Between Your Life and a Dog”)
Instead, in the US alone, we spent 12.9 billion dollars on 15.9 million elective aesthetic plastic surgery procedures in 2015; up 115% from the year 2000. Some would say that is simply an indicator of a recovering economy, and it is. It is also an indicator of being uncomfortable with who we are—not a judgment, simply an observation.
One of the benefits of being real is that you don't spend so much time worrying about how you look compared to others. You look how you look, and you look beyond how you look on the outside, to how life evolves at different ages. You become aware of your own evolution as you passed from teenage to adult to middle-aged to older. You have grown into yourself in ways you could not have predicted. You begin to pay more attention to what's happening right now, simply because you've seen just about everything come and go and realize that all things are transient. What is past is past; what is future is probably something you've seen before, so why not rest in the present and watch it play out.
Being present is a fine place to be. It feels solid, grounded, based in reality and not fantasy, and strangely exciting. There is anticipation rather than fear about what is to come. Present is where potential lives. It is undivided by looking back with regret, or looking forward with anxiety. It's just real. And real is good.
In the Spirit,