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Your wellbeing: this

Revd Chris McDermott, Lead Chaplain for the University of Sussex.

When not cycling to work I will invariably catch a bus, downloading a ticket on to my phone. The ticket always contains a random code word, indicating its validity for the bus driver.

One day, after downloading my ticket, I was in a rush to catch the bus. I was preoccupied with the week ahead and a number of things I had to do, the meetings that were coming up and a number of other matters that were on the horizon. I was feeling a bit anxious as I dwelt on what I imagined was to come and thought about how I would cope with it. I looked further forward to when these tasks and projects would all be finished and I could relax. That would be the prize! Being preoccupied with the future and musing on the past is not an uncommon experience. I am very adept at time travelling in this way. 

On this particular day I was especially struck when I glanced down at the ticket on my phone and noticed that day’s code word: ‘This’. The word seemed to bore itself into my consciousness.

This moment.

Right here and now.

This.

While we do need to anticipate the future and evaluate the past, it is often the case that in the process we can lose a vital connection with the present moment. Buried in our stress about the future and resentments or worries about the past, we can miss the potential and opportunity of what lies right under our nose. It may even be a key to successfully negotiating the challenges ahead.

Just this very moment and situation, as it is, can possibly yield a treasure trove if we pay attention to it. This conversation. This person. This task. This assignment. This challenge. This meeting. Just one day at a time.

I was reminded of a Hassidic story about a poor Jewish man who lived in Prague. He had repeated dreams about a treasure trove in distant Vienna - buried under the bridge leading to the king’s palace. So one day he decided to leave his family behind, travel to Vienna and claim his fortune.

Upon arriving in Vienna he found that the bridge was heavily guarded and the watchful eyes of the king’s solders allowed little opportunity to retrieve the treasure. Every day for two weeks he paced back and forth across the bridg, waiting for his chance.

Eventually one of the guards grabbed him by the lapels of his coat and demanded gruffly: “What are you plotting? Why do you keep returning to this place, day after day?" Frustrated and anxious, he blurted out the story of his dream. When he finished, the soldier broke into uncontrollable laughter.

The poor man looked on in astonishment, not knowing what to make of the man's attitude. Finally, the king's guard caught his breath. He stopped laughing long enough to say, "What a foolish man you are, believing in dreams. Why, if I let my life be guided by visions, I would be well on my way to the city of Prague. For just last night I dreamt that a poor Jew in that city has, buried in his cellar, a treasure which awaits discovery."

The poor man returned to his home. He dug in his cellar and found the fortune. Upon reflection he thought: the treasure was always in my possession. Yet, I had to travel to Vienna to know of its existence.

The story admits to many possible lessons and applications. Surely, one has to do with paying attention to what is right under our nose, staying grounded in the present and savouring the moment at hand.

It may just save some of our unnecessary and stress-inducing mental time travel. 

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Posted on behalf of: Chaplaincy
Last updated: Friday, 11 August 2017

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This is such a nice read. Motivational Monday!

From Tara Haden on 14 August 2017
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Thanks Chris for keeping us focussed on what matters and what doesn't. 

From Paul Statham on 14 August 2017
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or - as Walt Whitman put it:

Happiness, not in another place, but this place.

Not for another hour, but this hour.

 

From Caroline Roberts on 17 August 2017
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