When I revisited Japan last year, I went to a temple called Eihei-ji (see my Web site, http://www.sliceofjapan.com/, for photos). It's one of two head temples of a Zen Buddhist denomination called Soto-shu, which was brought to Japan from China in the 13th century by a man named Dogen Zenji. Above is a photo I took at Eihei-ji.
The key practice of Soto-shu Zen is called zazen, which consists of sitting on a cushion (usually in the full lotus or half-lotus position, if you can manage it) and being mindful of thoughts as they arise, and then letting them go without dwelling on them. The idea is to be present in THIS VERY MOMENT, not the one that just passed or the one that follows. Sounds easy. It's not. Try it sometime.
Anyway, I'm oversimplifying what zazen is about, and I'm not using just the right words to describe it. But zazen isn't the point of this entry.
At Eihei-ji, I saw a wonderful quotation posted on a wall, a quotation that thoroughly cut through all the many layers of nonsense in which we usually wrap ourselves and got right to the essence of life.
Paraphrased, it goes like this:
Regretting the fact that you likely won't have a long life isn't Buddhism. Giving thanks for a long life isn't Buddhism, either.
Buddhism is living in the moment and making the most of the life you have.
What more is there to say?