“Past is history, future is mystery; now is a gift of God, and that’s why it’s called Present!”
– Bill Keane (American cartoonist)
I was chanting softly on my prayer beads, sitting cross-legged on the grass, under a Eucalyptus tree. The sun shone brightly above me but the thick cover of the tree gave me a soothing shade. The silence was briefly interrupted by the ducks quacking at the pond nearby. Strange birds chirped on the branches, and my mind relayed a past event; I was angry and disturbed by a friend’s behaviour.
An elderly woman wobbled along straight with slow steps, on the pavement next to the park. She had a walking stick for support, her hat and thick glasses protected her from the scorching sun rays. She stopped just next to me, took almost a minute to turn right at my direction. She kept looking at me, and I smiled at her and then looked the other way. I continued chanting and wondered why she kept staring at me.
Slowly she removed her glasses, and I saw her moist eyes; tears filled to the brim. She pulled a kerchief, and wiped her tears and said in a thick Aussie accent, “You are a lucky fella. You look so peaceful and seem to be enjoying this lovely day. And you sit cross-legged! How I wish I too could sit cross-legged; it’s a pity I can’t. I am old and miserable.”
I said nothing, but returned her glance, and looked straight at her trying to empathise with her needs and feelings. She then put her glasses back and slowly turned straight again, and continued walking. She waved to me and said goodbye and wished me all the best.
A few minutes later the park was deserted again, and I was the lone visitor; of course I had my mind as a tantrum throwing companion.
Suddenly, from a realm beyond my mind, I heard a voice. I guess that’s called a realization when a strong voice boomed in my heart, “I am so fortunate I can sit comfortably while there are many in this world for whom this is a premium luxury they can’t afford.”
Immediately I offered a thank you prayer, and silently wished the lady well. God has filled our lives with so many gifts that we take for granted. Then slowly I began to list the things I need to thank God for at that moment, and soon I had more than twenty five gifts to thank Lord Krishna for.
That’s when I also felt peaceful; my anger at my friend dissolved and the issue that bugged me for hours now seemed irrelevant.
The lesson I learnt that afternoon: Gratitude is the antidote for misery caused by the monkey mind. If the mind rakes up past complaints or future worries, I know I need to be grateful to the present.