Wednesday, June 20, 2007

the single stitch

There is an old folk saying, "a stitch in time saves nine."

In these modern times, when not too many people use needle and thread, I suppose it sounds antiquated, but back in the old days when people did a great deal of sewing, it was more current.

All of us lead lives where things do not get done that should be done. On top of that, things get done that should not be done. All of this is a consequence of the fact that we do not attend to our lives. As I pointed out yesterday, we are all wrapped up in romantic fantasies about where we came from, what we are doing, who we are, and where we are going. These fantasies distract us from seeing what is needed in the present moment.

This seeing in the present moment is "the single stitch."

If we attend to our lives, pick up the needle of our attention, string it with the thread of our sensation, and draw it through the present moment, it can bind together the elements that are needed to keep the cloth hole.

In the absence of this action, trouble results. Later on a great deal of attention is often needed in order to repair things that could have been taken care of with minimum effort, had they only been attended to at the correct time.

Speaking only for myself, as an alcoholic I did a tremendous number of things that were harmful to other people, never mind myself. Many of them are shameful. In addition to that, there were many missed opportunities which can never be recovered in any meaningful sense.

One thing that they do teach in Alcoholics Anonymous is a task that Mr. Gurdjieff set his students: use the present to repair the past, and prepare the future.

The whole practice of being a recovering alcoholic is centered in the idea that I am not drinking right now. We try not to waste time thinking about how we used to be drinking before, or how we might be drinking in the future. All of the effort is to be focused on not drinking right now.

Another thing recovery taught me is that you cannot beat yourself up for the rest of your life for the things you did wrong. You have to suck it in, tighten the belt, face up to the things that you screwed up, accept responsibility, and move on.

This analogy is directly congruent to everything that is needed in ordinary life. We don't need to look back and feel bad about what we did or didn't do. What we do need to do is understand right now that we have an opportunity to act in a right way, to think in a right way, to be here in a right way, to the best of our ability, according to our understanding of what our responsibility is.

Remember the thief on the cross next to Christ. We can take his example.

It's never too late to repent.

May your flowers bloom abundant.

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