There are no crossroads, said the sage. Every moment is an infinity of endless possibility.
Our minds beg for simplification and insist on labels and assigned meaning. We see the path that we walk in our everyday lives and we say This is who I am. This is what I do. This is me. Yet within each of those everyday days there exists an infinity of moments, each of them an extraordinary, cosmic crossroads, with razor-sharp paths leading away from that moment into every possible future, in an infinity of directions. It is one of life’s tender mercies that our brain filters out nearly all of this and allows us to see the progression of time and the formation of our choices in a simpler form.
But let us remove this filter for a moment and consider that exuberance of possibility that leads from each and every moment. It is an unrecognizable and overwhelming matrix of time. If we are honest, do we sincerely believe ourselves to be bound to certain choices by the choices we have made in the past? Similarly, haven’t we all heard someone say, perhaps even ourselves, that Today is just one of those days. One must wonder: Are we willing to condemn an entire day – each a miniature infinity of present moments, each with its own infinity of possibility – to perdition simply because of some imperfection in it? Now expand that tendency of thought to the scale of a human life. Do we have the right to insult ourselves so, to refer to ourselves as That is just how I am; that is my nature, simply because we have responded in a certain way in the past? Should we now, when faced with a similar circumstance, reject the abundance of alternate actions that exist, simply because of that prior response?
The light of possibility is blinding, and it immediately exposes these questions as absurd. It becomes clear that our self-protective filter has performed its duty a little too well: Not only has it shielded us from the radiation of infinite possibility, it has choked off the light of all reasonable alternatives. We are trapped, in this way, by our own protective thinking, and we wander in the dark, pacing through our lives in memorized steps. Years later, we arrive at the brink and dance those same steps over the edge and into the abyss, and the people standing in black say That’s just how he was. This tragedy is beneath our dignity and not worthy of the imagination that is our birthright.
The crossroads, if we must reduce life’s abundance to such simple forms, are all around us, in every direction, and they include all possible futures. We get a small sense of this with even the simplest mindfulness exercises – being aware of one’s breathing, as an example. As we practice, in a moment we can cease the timeworn dance steps and behold if only for an instant the numerous paths that lead uniquely from the now. The question of which of these countless paths we will choose is of less importance than the fact that we are aware of their existence. This is the first step to opening the door to the present, and to truly living your life.
When we open that door, we are suddenly aware that life happens now. All of it. And that where we choose to go from here is up to us, and us alone.