Sitting on my porch the sounds and activities of the house being built next door are impossible to ignore. Meanwhile, from behind me come the sounds and activities of my toddler grandson playing in a makeshift sandbox. Even sitting between these two disparate dimensions, for just a moment the debilitating effects of the pandemic, and the emotional Rorschach of breaking our conspiracy of denial about the ravages of racism, seems to have blown away with the cool morning breeze. They haven’t of course, nor will they soon disappear. Still, breathing slowly and deeply while remembering to enter into the moment is as important as ever.
Watching this small child reminds me of the joy and fragility of living in the moment. He utters tears and laughter at either edge of the same experience. Likewise, my ability to distract him is almost god-like: pointing at a bird out the window, offering milk or handing him a banana will solve most any of his routine traumas. Playing in said sandbox, producing bubbles by waving a butterfly shape, and reading books are each peak experiences in the relatively new world of this little man. Even so, every stumble, bump, disappointment, and loss seem equally sorrowful and ruinous when judged by his cries or screams.
Trees, dogs, and groundhogs also live in the moment – probably without a choice about it. With all due respect to yoga instructors, we only get to visit any moment fleetingly. Yet there is an abundance of ways to be fully present with all those other living creatures who inhabit every moment more completely than we do.
For example, standing at the end of Long Pier at sunrise or sunset offers an accessible entrance into mindfulness, easily shared with gulls, waves, breeze, and heron. Fishing is another one. Standing in a river with the invisible current massaging your calves, the gurgle of water rushing over rocks, and the rustling of trees caressing your ears. In such moments we suddenly arrive in a new place even if seconds before we had been worrying about next Tuesday or regretting yesterday. Without notice, and truly without intent, the boundary on the moment can dissolve, creep silently around us, and pull us into its arms.
That is how it happens unless we set out to enter the moment through something like meditation. One minute we are full of volition, thinking about what we are doing, need or want, and without intention we slip into that space where trees, flowers, and dogs live all the time. Suddenly, for just an instant, we blossom in the moment alongside all that life breathing with us.
What is the value of this space between thought and breath? For spirituality it is the only place we can encounter the holy, because God is only present in the moment too. For physiology it might be how it can help manage our weight and lower blood pressure. To psychology it could be because it allows us to hear ourselves and reduce stress. For our politics its value is renewed clarity to perceive the difference between truth and spin.
So finding times and places in which to allow ourselves to dissolve into the present without an awareness of past or future, offers all kinds of health value. Thanks for joining in this one.