This World is Always a New World
You cannot step in the same river twice.
— Heraclitus of Ephesus
I haven’t been inhabiting the virtual realm in a while. Things happened. Life unravelled with remarkable speed and pulled me into its beautiful vortex. We had lovely visitors. I finally wrote pages upon pages for long-due papers. Stood in our tiny, steamy kitchen and baked vegetable lasagne or made creamy hummus. Worked. Brunched extensively. Attended conferences and seminars. Slept. And somewhere along the line, I cherished my last mindfulness course session.
One of the last things our teacher said to us was: “Don’t forget. The world is always new. Every moment is a new moment. You can choose to pause in this moment, because there will be a next one in which you can take action. You don’t have to do everything at once. Every new second is an opportunity to pause or to act — whichever is necessary.” I kind of knew what he meant with it, but I didn’t comprehend the largeness of what it truly implies.
Then, last week, I had the strangest experience. Having briefly planted myself on a bench over lunch, I turned inwards. I halfway closed my eyes. And that’s when I didn’t just understand what he meant. I saw.
I saw and felt and heard and even smelled that you never wake up to the same world. After every breath you take, the world is already altered. It might seem like the same world, but that is an illusion.
If you close your eyes and listen, you’ll see. Sitting completely still on a park bench. In a café. On your couch, with the symphony of the city perhaps finding its way into your sanctuary through the cracks in your walls, the edges of window frames, under the door. You pay attention to the tip of your nose. How the air touches it. How it flows in and out of your nostrils. Down the back of your throat, your windpipe. Remain with it. For a minute. For five. For fifteen. Feel it how it expands your upper chest, the middle of your belly, over and over again. Until there is nothing but your breath in your lower belly. Does it move your back? Your shoulders? Your arms?
Then listen. Just listen, for a long, long time. To the sound of your breath. And then to the sound of a falling leaf scratching the pavement. A delivery truck roaring by. Hurried footsteps. A distant phone that rings. Nothing. Then laughter. The wind. What can you hear? The sound of a falling leaf means that the earth is one fallen leaf closer to another winter. The wheel of time is turning. Towards what? The sound of a delivery truck means that a package has been delivered and someone now has something they didn’t have before. Someone hurried to a place they weren’t before. Someone got a call infusing their life with words that hadn’t been spoken before. Someone just felt a little happier than a second before. The wind has shifted the clouds just a bit closer towards other continents, where it will do and bring other things, other weathers, other rain, and new life. The sun has moved a bit, the shades have wandered. It is almost as if you’re watching a movie and suddenly you realize how everyone is a protagonist. Including yourself.
We think we get up and, by and large, it’s same old, same old. Our apartments look the same. And yet they don’t. The screws in our furniture have become just a little bit looser. The remote is in a different place than yesterday morning. Some dust has, over night, settled. Our basil plant has grown a bit. And so has our child. Us. We have woken up from a sleep that has helped our bodies renew cells. We have, yesterday, eaten meals that will influence whether we’ll be healthy or not. We are one day older, and right now we are — as cliché as this might sound — as young as we’ll ever be.
When you sit and listen, you’ll realize it is all unravelling. The world. Time. Our story. It is spinning forth. And that means that every act matters. Whether you choose to say things kindly or rudely, whether you choose to say “I love you” or keep it to yourself. With everything you do or don’t do, you are putting something new into this world — with every second that passes. Every act of yours is a domino stone. You are, with whatever you do, influencing the mysterious weaving of the incomprehensibly complex history we are all part of.
This means that yes, choose your dominoes wisely. Because. We are not alone. We are part of a whole.
But it also means that, as my teacher said, the world is a new one with every moment. There is always a new moment. Why are we doing things with haste? What moves us to “just quickly” do the dishes, “run” errands, “hop over” to the grocery store? Most of the time, once we really think about it, the three minutes we are “saving” (whatever that means) by hurrying are worthless in comparison to the worlds of sensations and depth we would gain, had we done the same thing with a bit less absent-minded speed and a little more loving presence. With curiosity, affection, warmth. How much more an enjoyable place this world would be! And it is your choice to make it so.
Today, marvel a bit. Close your eyes and hear the the story unfold. And then, once your heartbeat feels steady and good and strong, choose the next thing that feels right. Everything you do can be done in a myriad of ways. Whether you want it or not, each way will unleash a series reactions in the hearts of the people you touch today. Including yourself. Be kind to yourself. Take that relaxing bath you’ve been meaning to take — it might just help you do everything else with more care. Eat that little piece of chocolate, and savor it — it might just help you be less grumpy. When you really must do something you don’t like, try to find beauty in it. For your own heart’s sake. Ask for that hug you need. It might help you hug others when they need it, too.
Think of which story you want to see happen for this world. And remember: there is always a new next moment to choose.