Dec 19 2014

Bryan Castner,


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Holidays, Living Fully, Mindfulness




His name is Marco. The other cats in the household call him Mister Marco. He and his sibs have been in the family for 10 years, gifted to us in our back yard, where they were born while we were on vacation. Have no idea who mom and dad were.

Like many of the world’s wonderful creatures, these little guys provide unwavering loyalty, unconditional love, and sweet companionship. But as of late, I’ve realized that Marco is here for another reason too: He’s been trying to remind me of something.

Wonderful time of year, the holidays – no, really – the memories I have of the holidays as a kid growing up in southeastern Pennsylvania are still quite impressionable. I was pretty much Ralphie from A Christmas Story. Except I didn’t care about air rifles. Bikes and Lionel trains were my bliss.

So it doesn’t snow much in the desert and maybe that’s the difference, or maybe it’s because that was over 60 years ago and I’m not Ralphie anymore, or maybe our societal perspectives of whatever it is that we celebrate this time of year are changing – but those joyous feelings of yesteryear now seem to be as scarce as a fleeting savory waft coming from the kitchen.

I’m not complaining. I’ll take what I can get…

So my wife and I are getting ready for work and we’re rushed and there are three times as many things to do because we’re in the holiday season and they’re not happening and disaster looms large if any one of a hundred things goes wrong and Black Friday is in the midst of all this and we feel compelled to jump into that madness too.

The conversation is not going well.

I am not in a good space. I can’t find my center. I am a lost soul in my own bathroom. I want to scream and cry at the same time and I want to say I’m not doing this anymore. (By the way, this happens every year.)

Marco is sitting on the bathroom counter. He’s looking up at me. He is not wrapped up in anything. He is just there, looking at me. His message is clearly his presence, his being. Marco doesn’t know how to be anywhere but here and wherever he goes – there he is.

Like all of his compañeros in the animal kingdom, Marco is the master of Now. He lives only in the moment. And it was in one of those passing moments where his “nowness” pulled me back to center. Back to where I realized that I too am capable of being nowhere else but right here, right now.

Be Here Now.

Ram Dass said that in his 1970’s book. Yes. I want to be here now. I love that space, so timeless, so absent of ego, so connected to everything yet so absent of things. But I slip. I fall. I forget. I go back and forth between the past and the future so much and so fast that I forget the present exists.

I forget that the present is all there is. It’s all we have. Marco is here to remind me.

And so I go about the business of living through these few weeks in turbo-mode. It’s what most of us do. Hopefully we will each find a measure of joy, peace, family love, spirituality, and goodwill along the way.

Those things are there but they are only found in the moment.

Thank you, Marco, for the subtle reminder. God bless ye, Your Royal Nowness. There shall be kitty treats in your stocking (I need to put that on my list).




Bryan Castner is a retired industrial designer and mechanical engineer whose personal journey includes struggles with substance abuse that began when he was in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. Now in his fourth year of sobriety, Bryan has embarked on a second career as a substance abuse recovery group facilitator and psycho-educator. He recently acquired a degree in Social Services and has applied for counseling licensure in the State of Arizona.

Bryan is married, has two daughters and three grandchildren. He lives in Tucson.

Bryan can be reached at