Perhaps I was influenced by that soap opera, I think it was called “Days of Our Lives”.
When I was little, and maybe they still do this, it opened with an image of an hour glass,
and a saying, something like “as sands through the hour glass flow the days of our
lives”. So, it may be a trite metaphor, found in a goofy place, but I keep coming back to
it. I picture, and I invite you to picture, each grain of sand as a present moment. And
each grain of sand contains a multitude of riches, including this moment, with me
standing here, and all of you sitting out there, and this lovely hall, and all the sounds
around us. Each grain of sand is different. Of course, for my hour glass, there is more
sand in the bottom part than the top part; but hopefully there’s still many grains left in
the top part; but none of us knows for sure. I guess, it’s a bit like the top of the hour
glass is partly obscured by a cloth, so that we cannot see for sure how many grains
are left, but we do know that it will run out. I think of mindfulness practice, as
cultivating being with each grain of sand as it falls, creating a vast space in which to
experience the whole of this moment. And yet, there are times I find myself,
rummaging through the grains of sand on the bottom, searching to resolve some
confusion, or wishing I had done something differently. And when I’m doing that,
several new grains fall and I don’t even notice. Or, I find some difficulty in the present
grain, and I start wishing several grains of sand away. I can’t wait until it’s the week-
end– or until I go on vacation, or wait until I find the right dress, or job, or house, and all
will be fine. I’m imaging what one of those grains on the top might look like, and
meanwhile, I’m wishing away the grains that actually are there falling and available to
be fully experienced. Wow! There are times it is important to plan, but I don’t need to
be planning, and wishing away as many present moments as I do. So, I cultivate the
practice of being present, as best I can, for each grain as it falls.
And to turn things upside down a little, we might play with inverting our hour glasses,
as I end by reading this poem. It’s author is unknown, but I found it in a book by Jack
Kornfield, After the Ecstasy the Laundry (NY: Bantam Book, 2000).
Life is tough
It takes a lot of your time,
all your weekends,
and what do you get at the end of it?
Death, a great reward.
I think that the life cycle is all backwards.
You should die first, get it out of the way.
Then you live twenty years in an old-age home.
You are kicked out when you’re too young.
You get a gold watch, you go to work.
You work forty years until you’re
young enough to enjoy your retirement.
You go to college,
you party until you’re ready for high school.
You become a little kid, you play,
you have no responsibilities,
you become a little boy or girl,
you go back into the womb,
you spend your last nine months floating.
And you finish off as a gleam in someone’s eye.
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