This Precious Moment
Updated: Jul 20, 2022
This precious moment is all there is. Along comes another and another and another. Let's take partial inventory of what we have in this precious moment. Countless atoms are vibrating, moving, retaining the shape that is the eye, the skeletal frame, the neural cell, the computer screen, the ground you sit or stand on, the gases in the room you breath. Invisible forces like gravity are at work, subatomic particles like muons are traveling through you. The you you think you are is made up of trillions of atoms that form cells. Each cell is a self-contained, sentient entity organized to perform a specific function. It lives in a symbiotic community called "your" body which you did not have a hand in designing. The you you think you are is dependent on gut flora, billions of bacteria, and the organization and coordination of particles and cells you cannot see. We are gifted with a complex body which we can direct to go this way or that, which we can celebrate. I can move my eyes across the screen, for example, and my brain processes and decodes symbols we call letters into words into thoughts, assigning meaning. How many sub-processes are at work in your mind this moment to enable you to read and comprehend this sentence? Messages jump from neuron to neuron across synaptic clefts, connecting nodes, pulling from memory, retrieving, decoding, making meaning, evaluating, reflecting- all in present tense. The neurons that store memory are ever in the now. Meanwhile the brain coordinates respiration and countless other functions as you read. You breath. A signal from the brainstem controls the amplitude and frequency of the breath. The diaphragm contracts creating a pressure vacuum inside your chest cavity. Intercostal muscles are recruited to expand the ribs. The lungs fill with air. A gas exchange takes place. Oxygen diffuses through the capillaries; you expel carbon dioxide. As soon as the air enters the nostrils it is filtered. The oxygen the body extracts from the air you breath binds to a molecule of hemoglobin which is transported throughout the body; blood delivers oxygen to your cells which make up organs. One organ, the liver has over 500 functions. Ask the little self to name one? There are feedback loops that allow this system to work. What controls it? Certainly not the little self I imagine myself to be. A new moment. Another breath. It is so wondrous.
Your body stays warm- no furnace; your eyes alchemize rivers of light into sight and vibrating particles of air into sound. The data is routed through the brain. Who controls the gate? Another breath. More wonders. More to celebrate and appreciate. But what is this moment to the little self?
The little self may be unhappy, dissatisfied, incomplete, restless, bored, miserable, frustrated, discontent, wanting, grasping. The little self cannot simply be in this moment. It cannot appreciate the miracle unfolding moment by moment. For it to be "happy," conditions often must conform to its expectations- indexed to its pleasures and demands, to illusions of how the world should be in order for us to be happy. But you are not your thoughts. The ego does not contract the heart muscle or maintain the ph balance of the blood. The you you think you are does not sustain the life force dancing within or the needs that support life.
In this moment, I am aware of my interdependence. Hundreds of hands helped grow the food that sustains my energy in this moment. Rain, microbes in the soil, sunlight, how connected it all is... yet how mindless and ungrateful the little self can be. Preoccupied with its petty, self-centered concerns and its own self-importance, the miracle that is life is easily missed. By misidentifying with the chaotic torrent of thoughts we ascribe as the self, we can dysregulate the healthy functioning of the body and the Earth of which we're a part.
Meanwhile the planet spins on its axis, rotating the sun; the solar system turns, the galaxy in constant flux, the universe dances within and without. A new moment. There is more contained in this second than the puny intellect can grasp. It is more beautiful than the little self can comprehend.
"Two eyes our souls possess;
While one is tuned on past and future;
The other sees things eternal and sublime."
Meditation is a tool, a compass that points attention to the Mystery which animates you even as you sit reading this. It is one way to connect to the preciousness within. Neither reason nor words can reach it, but we can use reason and words to point the way to it. This blog is the proverbial finger pointing at the moon, not the moon itself.