There are days that feel like gifts. A bright sun streams through the kitchen window. Your lover touches you just where you want to be touched. You get a call from a dear friend and breathe deeper after the intimate conversation. Your radio show goes well and you feel delighted by the opportunity to share your thoughts and heart with others out there. You receive a comment on a recent blog post that reassures you your voice is being heard.
Today is one of those days.
Maybe every day could be like this if we let ourselves believe that each moment, no matter how significant or insignificant, matters. That’s what I practiced on the retreat I just returned from a little over a week ago. The teachers kept reminding us that the only thing that is real is this moment here. So we better pay attention to it, to what’s happening inside ourselves, to how we are being with ourselves and others. Not so we can change it, or avoid the next one if this one doesn’t feel so good. So we can acknowledge that this, whatever is happening now, right here in this body, in these surroundings, is important. More than important. It’s all we have.
I wrote a poem in July 2004, when I was a master’s student, in which I spoke of what it means to practice this kind of attention.
what I did on my summer vacation
To inhabit one’s body is cause for celebration. Simone De Beauvoir
It’s this feeling
legs crossed, chair
of knees, a
from the open window.
I can hardly believe
I have just heard
my professor tell me
that for the next
all I have to do
my shoulders rescind, my
breath coming back inside,
my face wearing a smile
as wide as the universe.
I get to be fully here,
no pretension, nothing
to try to learn.
I get to just let go,
in my black
skirt and top
my lover beside me in bed, the ride
over from Salt Spring to Victoria
in Calliope- my ‘85 dodge aries,
the bags of stuff to be unloaded later
at my friend’s home for the next 6 weeks.
I get to be here now,
to dwell on what makes
my soul sing out, what
glorifies my limbs to
move about the world.
It’s this feeling of bliss, sometimes I
get a whiff of it, lately more and more
and then I wonder: What about you
and you? What about those who are not
this blissed, this blessed, who suffer
as I sweat laughter, thrill to come to
school during my summer vacation.
This is where I want to be and
to be aware of being here.
Take off the mask, sit
beside myself and cry.
This is what I want to learn
and to teach, this presence,
this mattering of what I am
inside and outside.
All these cherished faces,
connections I’ve made here.
My heart grows wider
my mind expands
and this over-
active body, this
busy body, this
soft lovely body
keeps me going on.
I am here.
I need here.
I need to stop
and be aware of
The radio not playing.
The buzz of the fan.
The other women writing their words around me.
When I was on retreat last month I felt as if there was something important occurring inside me, a kind of synthesis of my life’s work. After rereading that poem, I feel that same feeling. It’s a gathering together into wholeness. What it means for the rest of today or tomorrow, I don’t know.
Actually I had a dream about those three words a few days after returning from the retreat. In the dream there was some monumental learning, a deep insight I had gained, and it manifested in those three words, “I don’t know”. I remember repeating them to myself over and over like a mantra. “I don’t know, I don’t know”. There was something deeply comforting in acknowledging that.
How strange that I feel those two things at the same time: as if there is a huge synthesis in my life, a coming together of all that I value and love while at the same time there is a comfort in admitting that “I don’t know” what it means.
It reminds me of one of the key teachings of the Buddha. Things arise through an unpredictable, infinite number of random and unseen causes and conditions and they are always changing. I may try out my powers of analysis and observation to discover how things may be, and I may come up with some intelligent, sensical answers, however I don’t truly know how things will unfold. This is the mystery of creation, of being alive.
Which is why the only place to be is right here, right now, fully present and aware of the laptop on my lap, the tension in my left shoulder, and my very cold bare feet.
What’s happening in your body in this moment? What are you hearing, seeing, feeling? You don’t have to do anything with it. Just notice. No judgement. Be present just for what’s actually here. Give yourself the gift of this moment.