This Moment

“Happiness, knowledge, not in another place but this place, not for another hour but this hour.”   Walt Whitman

So many wait to begin at the beginning; of the New Year, of the week, of the next perceived starting point.  Yet what are we doing while waiting for that perfect moment?  In some cases one actually undermines the future opportunity that lies ahead.  How many times is a diet or exercise program preceded by splurging on rich food and indulging in couch time?

We put off, we set aside, we make poor choices with the promise of doing better; all common behaviors.  Waiting for that perfect time to begin, so many hours and days are left languishing, sliding away, unused, unrecoverable.  Many long for more time to follow pursuits that seem distant, yet killing time is a common device.  More than any other benefit, mindfulness offers us more time.  Each moment that we can maintain our mindful presence is one well used adding to the storehouse of experience, knowledge and memory.  Arriving at one’s destination having seen each sight, breathed the scents of the waiting in lineplace, with the feel of the swirling air of the present on one’s skin, the journey becomes a piece of us.

There are dozens of lists detailing how to make the most of one’s down time; waiting being so much a part of the many errands we run.  Bring a book, write a list, call a friend; each useful and certainly productive.  But could we not also add breathe, listen, look about, dip you hand in the fountain?

As this day of fresh starts becomes the next and the next, let us remember that we can  wait until the next day or hour to become present in this moment.  We are here, we are now, and the storehouses of our lives are filled to the brim with all there is when we give over each instant to mindfulness and intent.

Love in this Time of Life

“Each time of life has its own kind of love.”
-Leo Tolstoy

Rereading the chapter in Tolstoy’s work “Family Happiness” from which this quote springs reminds me that this is about the sorrow of love that has changed and dissipated over time.  Yet I chose the quote for altogether another reason.  It brought to mind the ever-changing focus of the love that we hold within, and the varied expressions as one passes through each phase of life.

The last few days I have thought about how much I love my life; especially that in this time in my life I have allowed myself to choose a path and take the steps that carry me fully in the direction I intend to go.  In the past, I felt carried along on a tide of which I had no control and felt helpless to tug against.  Yet in reality I was making choices and often they were taking me in a direction that was rewarding and suited me well.

It is only in this time of life that I am able to reflect on the nature of the lasting loves and the newfound love of my way of life.  I now more clearly understand the steadying nature of the love of a long marriage, one that has certainly seen its share of heartbreak, but has endured in spite of all we did to harm it.  The love of my children has grown and changed dramatically over the years.  At its inception it was a strong physical bond, wrapped in desire to protect and shelter, the need to hold them close.  As they grew, I loved who they were, even as the physical bond lessened, the emotional bond grew.  Even later as the struggle to hang on and let go all in the same movement, love became something to come back to when confusion and disconnects threatened.  And now I enjoy the love of acceptance, loving them for who they are and aspire to become, much as I have finally learned to love myself.  As the awful burden of expectations has fallen away,  the underlying beauty of the fact of their beings returns to me as it was in the first hours of their existence.

Ultimately this love is such a powerful presence in my awareness and appreciation as a result of the great gift of being present in the moment and looking not forward, but all around.  This time of life has offered up, and I have gratefully accepted, love of place, love of life, love of home and family, and the ability to revel in each of these.

Growing Patient

“A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”
Proverbs 19:11

Wisdom is not something one can seek as much as something that descends upon us when taking the time to sit with life and let its lessons reveal themselves.  For me it was slowing my reactions and responses to offenses real and imagined.  Quick to imagine less than kind intent in the smallest slight, I internalized these and my responses became even more rapid.  When I was finally able to step back, and let the events rest on their own, I began to see the people behind the supposed offense.  To see more clearly required time for observation and reflection.  Mindfulness took away the urgency; not just being in the moment, but paying close attention to my responses.

With my new-found intimacy with the present I discovered that Patience also yields Wisdom.  They are inseparable and one continued to benefit the other.  I suspect that wisdom is closely associated with age not so much due to accumulating experience, but the natural slowing of the pace of life that gives one time to put that experience in perspective.  The added awareness that life is short, when it becomes rather obvious with age, results in a softening of the edges.  The lack of benefits to taking offense push it to the “why bother ” ledger as I search for those things with the greatest payoff in the least time.

Have I gained wisdom and patience?  I like to think I have grown in that regard as much as in any other.  Losing the habit of taking offense and then feeling compelled to act, leaves more time for joy and acts of kindness.

Just Thinking

I am rereading “When Things Fall Apart, Heart Advice for Difficult Times” by Pema Chodron.  Although nothing is falling apart in a dramatic way, nor am I going through a difficult time, I began the book again as the result of simply dusting.  I picked up the book and began to flip through it as I recalled it was helpful at a previous juncture in my life and that there is mention of mindfulness and meditation which have captured my interest of late.  I had highlighted one of the pieces of advice to help with the meditative process of emptying the mind and becoming fully present in the moment which is to catch oneself when a thought creeps in with the phrase, “just thinking”.

The point is that thoughts are not reality, but are just thinking.  That we might change them into something concrete, through analysis and planning, no doubt.  But in the moment they are nothing more and nothing less than just thinking.  So often that thinking is worrying or trying to come up with a solution to a perceived problem that may in fact exist only in thought.  Staying focused and centered in the moment requires turning off the internal chatter, letting go of the notion of control, and yes, letting things fall apart.

Falling apart is what happens, it is how life works.  In all manner of things, falling apart and coming back together is the cycle of life.  In my garden the items in the compost bin are falling apart, only to come back together as compost to give new life and energy to the soil growing my vegetables.  Once harvested, the spent plants and trimmings return to the compost bin to start the cycle anew.  It is the same with our lives.  Some things become spent and yet do not disappear, they take on a new and different value in our lives.  Perhaps the spent bit; a relationship, a job, an old stomping ground; will nourish us for the next round of these things.  But to try to hang on to last year’s tomato plant in the hopes it will produce again next year is not only folly but denies the garden the nutrients needed to grow and prosper in the future.

Our “thinking” is a way of trying to hang on to what is spent, attempting to pull the past forward into the present.  “Being” is difficult in a society so invested in intellect and thought.  Yet in those moments of just being, mindful of one’s surroundings and senses we rediscover time and again, our true selves.  As I dig one shovelful after another of rocks large and small, untangle the grass and weed roots from the dirt, I can let myself and my thinking drift away and only be aware of the hot sun on my back, the strength in my legs and arms as I work, marveling at the earthworms in the rocky sandy dirt that will someday be soil.  The state of grace of just being in the world instead of feeling batted about by a torrent of thoughts that I came to associate with being “me” is profound and enriching.

Finding this center, this quiet place, requires a realignment of habit.  Turning off the internal chatter to connect with the moment takes practice and constant reminder.  The mantra, when one finds themselves becoming enmeshed in a problem to which there is no solution, pulling thoughts from here and there to create a different reality, is “just thinking”.  And adding the further reminder that thoughts are not real, can bring one back to mindfulness of the present and grounded in the peaceful knowledge that everything is changing all the time, falling apart and coming back together, and while we are a part of the process, our only responsibility is to notice.

I’ve been a SLACKER!

Okay, so I thought I would post weekly but life has overtaken me!  It all started innocently enough when I was volunteering at my community garden with the Library Kids In The Garden project and got to know the Master Gardener, Colleen.  From her I learned that I did not need fencing to have my own garden, that I could make a compost bin from items I had on hand and thought I would burn (eek) !  It went from there.  So now I have a quarter plot at the community garden and one about the same size here.   The one here is my writing slacker excuse du jour.  First I had to haul railroad ties from else-where on the property, uphill of course!  And I had to mow down the grasses and weeds; oh, and build my compost bin from old broken down pallets that remained from  when the house was built and thus pre-dating me.  And, and, and….created a writing furlough in my mind.

Did I mention the rose bush?  I found myself busy and productive, the good stuff; but yet again leaving my life’s passion in the dust.  I am over and over regrouping to find that balance in my life.  It seems I live on a teeter-totter rather than a balance beam and I need to find a way to migrate to the better location.

Tonight is my first step in finding balance, which means that I cannot leave my passion for writing behind; I must make room for things I value such as the gardens and library; and lose the time wasters.  Distractions are so easy to come by and so hard to set aside, but that is my goal.  Identifying the distracting elements and focusing on the productive ones.

You will find me circling back to writing more, but maybe a bit about gardens, kids, the library, composting and weather instead of the more philosophical topics, but then again all of those things can generate a bit of philosophy or at least some homespun wisdom.  Like all things in life, blogging evolves and we shall see where this goes.

Stay tuned……

What Do You Contain?

“The beauty you see is also in you…
You only see what you contain”

Isn’t it one of the lovely circles of life that the beauty we take in, we hold, and it in turn allows us to see and experience more beauty in all things?  I am privileged to live in a most beautiful place and it has opened my heart to other beauty in my life.  The beauty of a group of 15 kids ranging in age from 5-12 working together and helping each other in our community garden in our Libray Kids in the Garden program.  One child has profound hearing loss and speech difficulty, yet was easily welcomed and included by all the others.  The youngest seems painfully shy, yet found his footing with the help of another child a couple of years older.  The two oldest, where there seems to be a marked difference in maturity, hung together at first, then realized the younger ones were struggling with the scavenger hunt and split up to help the younger ones.  All of this coöperation, with not one episode of unkindness or lack of enthusiasm, was truly a thing of beauty.  As the weeks go by and our tomatoes, carrots, broccoli and assorted other goodies begin to ripen and the kids get to know each other better I expect there will be more moments like this.  This day, which was glorious in every way, with warm sun and clear skies, came on the heels of gray day after gray day, punctuated only by rain and wind.  I felt deflated and filled with the kind of gloom that only a long Montana “sprinter” (spring on the calendar – winter outdoors) can induce.  Then suddenly sun, smiling excited faces, and my hands in the dirt to turn it all around in a quick two and a half hours.

This morning we are back to “sprinter” even though summer is only days away, it is wet and cool again.  But the beauty lingers in me and I see how green the grasses and trees are, washed clean overnight; and the wildflowers continue to burst forth with the long hours of daylight with or without the sun.

Continually watering the inner garden and filling oneself with every moment of beauty and tranquility grows inward radiance becoming one’s gift to the outer world as well as to oneself.  Add a full mix of care, compassion, hope, joy, wonder and beauty of all kinds.  The more one contains of the positive  the less room to hold anger, sadness, cynicism or indifference.  Taking care what is added to the container, mindful that all that one contains colors all that is seen and done; choose wisely.

Knowing Your Path

“You will recognize your own path when you come upon it, because you will suddenly have all the energy and imagination you will ever need.”

What if the right path presented itself as a dazzling staircase that we only had to climb to find ourselves exactly where we needed to be?  Would we do it?  Or would we look at the amazing path and tell ourselves; it is too high, it looks too slippery, I’ll come back to it later when I am not so busy, it might be an illusion?

We have  myriad ways to convince our-selves not to do the thing that we know is best for us, meant for us to do.  I just finished a book that I cannot more highly recommend, “SWAY, The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior” by Ori and Rom Brafman.  It delves into the question of why we would do or believe something that makes absolutely no sense, and yet somehow we convince our brains, or vice versa in some cases, that it does.  A fast-paced read on a topic that could change how you operate and best of all, how to get unstuck from a behavior or relationship you have tried to escape.
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2118114.Sway

If today the thought of one activity, one person, one idea, creates that spark of energy and imagination, then it is time to seize it with all you have.  Don’t climb that staircase, run up the staircase, shout from the top, slide down the railing and run up again.  Embrace this moment and give it your full attention and heart.  All of the paths are there, the bright sparkling ones, the cool deep ones that lead into the enchanted forest, the precisely laid stone, the overgrown tangled vine laden paths.  Which one intrigues you and calls you further along?  The path that resonates inside is not the same for each of us, rather it is the connection we feel to that path that has grown inside us as we have passed by so many others knowing they are not the right one.

Do not be cautious, do not choose with care!  Fling yourself at your path with all the daring and courage that you can muster.   The time for care and caution will be when you think you want to veer from that path to find another.  Be sure you have explored this one fully and allow yourself the time to reflect whether you have merely come upon a log you must climb over or if it is the end of this path and time to find the next.

And each time, let yourself light up, feel the thrill and magic of travelling exactly where you belong.  It is not luck that one finds oneself on the right path, all that you need is being open enough to see it and brave enough to take it.  Step quickly now, your path is right ahead!