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The Last Time

A perspective on mindfulness; and the sacredness of time.

Take a moment to think of all the things you will experience for the last time. Of course, the eventuality of death shows that at some point, everything will be done for the last time. But long before you die, you will do things for the last time. When was the last time that you walked out of your university’s library? Or if you’re a parent, when was the last time you carried your child to bed? When was the last time your puppy, learning the art of co-ordinated walking, fell over its feet?

Even challenging times in your life may bring up some bitter-sweet moments. Like the first month of Covid-19 lockdown, where you are caring for your family, your business is struggling, your partner is working from home, you can’t leave the house AND all the housework falls onto you. In these difficult moments, there is often something sweet. It is possible you will miss this.

We do everything a finite number of times

All things in life happen a finite number of times. In our daily lives, we take beautiful moments for granted. Often, we are just trying to get through a to-do list, or just trying to get to the end of what we have set out to do. In this pursuit of achievement or success, we often lose the beauty in what we are doing.

Tim Urban often features articles that look at this very topic. One of his posts on his website, Wait But Why, starkly puts life into perspective. He measures out the human life in years. You can find your year below.

A 90- Year Human Life in Years. Which block represents you right now? (Urban, 2014)

Each time that you do something, pleasant or unpleasant, that is just one last time. At some point, there will come a time when you do it for a final time. And you will rarely know when that is.

What I know for sure…

I love swimming. I was the kid that started swimming without armbands before I was two. The ocean has always been a magical place for me, and my friends know that I live by the saying, “You never regret a swim”, sometimes using it to rise me to a challenge.

I haven’t swum in the ocean in three months. That might not seem very long, but a little less than 6 months ago I was swimming in the warm, Indian ocean daily.

When will I swim in the ocean again? I’m not sure. What I am sure of, is that the last time I walked out of the ocean, I was not even dimly aware of the possibility that it might be the last time.

When was the last time you hiked up the mountain? Or gone camping?

Sunset (DanPhotography, Feb 2020)

From here on out

As you go about your day, consider that everything in your day is like this. It “represents a finite opportunity to savour life” (Harris, 2019). On some level, everything is precious. If it doesn’t seem like that, paying more attention might pivot your experience.

Everything in your day represents a finite opportunity to savour life – Sam Harris

Attention is your true source of wealth

Good leaders are present, not perfect (Reynolds, 2014). With this in mind, attention is your true source of wealth. Often people say, “time is money”. However, you can waste time. You can’t waste attention.

Next time you pass someone walking on the street, and you greet them, I urge you to mean it a little more. When you thank someone for their help, really thank them. Connect with your life. Mindfulness is a tool to do this.

Mindfulness – a tool to being present

Mindfulness is a tool to connect with your life. The only other alternative is to be lost in thought. Every time you notice you are lost in thought, and you bring yourself back to the present, you are training your mind.

It may feel difficult at first, that’s part of the practice. But eventually, as Sam Harris says, it is like continually waking up from a dream. And that’s not difficult at all.

The inspiration for this post

A big thank you to Sam Harris and his Waking Up app. Much of the content of this post has been inspired by his views on The Last Time.