The Could-be's, Might-be's and Should-be's

A reflection about living the present moment.

It has been five months since my dearest cousin, Andy, unexpectedly passed away. He was a year younger than me, a successful lawyer, blessed with four wonderful children, and a loving wife. One evening after dinner, he said to his family, “I’ll be going for a short walk.” He suffered a heart attack during that walk and never came back. 

Every day since Andy’s death, I found myself realizing the truth in all its clichés: life is too short, nothing is permanent, live every moment. I think of how fragile life is and how it could be taken away at a moment’s notice. If my own life were taken away in the next second, could I truthfully say that I have lived a good, fulfilling life? Could you?

Sometimes we live our lives thinking there’s a guaranteed tomorrow. We get consumed with our daily routine and fail to see what else could be possible. Or we think that we have time and put things off. We think that tomorrow is when we’ll take that trip we’ve dreamed of, tomorrow is when we’ll pursue a career change out of our boring jobs, tomorrow is when we will make a difference, or tomorrow is when we’ll have the courage to simply say “I love you” to our beloved.

“There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow. So today is the right day to love, believe, do, and mostly live,” the Dalai Lama said.

On a deeper level, Andy has reminded me why I keep coming back to my yoga mat. It’s all about practicing living the present moment. Deep, long breaths disengage me from the chatters of my mind and re-focus me on feeling the sensation of what is here and now: my breath, feeling grounded to the earth, being fully aware of what’s around me with a deep sense of appreciation of simply being, simply living. Yoga is life’s “back to the basics” practice.

Yoga is life's "back to the basics" practice.

When my mind is clear, I’m able to see the bigger picture and realize the simplicity of the impermanence of everything. I feel a renewed sense of gratitude just to experience a present moment. These moments fleet every second. And every second, these moments give me a yearning to live life big and pursue what could be now.  

This reflection has influenced how I’ve been living my life lately. I could be visiting lifelong friends in the Philippines in 2017, in time for a high school reunion. An opportunity arose to visit them sooner. This week, I fly to Hong Kong to visit my sister and then continue on to the Philippines to see my lifelong friends on New Year’s Day. 

I could have been working through Christmas and could have flown to Los Angeles to be with family only the day prior to the holidays. Instead, my need for family connection led me to decide to fly a week earlier and work remotely. 

I could have postponed expressing my gratitude to the people I love and stayed in the comfort of status quo, hiding my authentic self. Instead, I allowed myself to be vulnerable and to speak from the heart. To my surprise, it’s quite a liberating, positive feeling.

Live life big and pursue what could be now.

Andy’s untimely death has taught me something: what could be, should be, and might be do not have to be so. When today is all we have, how do we live our lives to be so rich, so big, and so bold? How do we live life now?