The other day, one of my favorite people and bloggers, Stephanie Ortez, challenged me to write three consecutive blog posts about awareness, using relevant quotes. I’m not sure if I’ll manage to write all three, but I’m giving it a go with this one.
Awareness—or mindfulness—for me is about being in the moment: experiencing a brief period of time and embracing it for what it is, because it’s a unique experience.
I first became aware of this practice when I was at a local park one day with my kids, who were toddlers at the time. I was chatting with another mom, or maybe I should say I was prattling on, as I tend to do sometimes. If I recall correctly, I was brainstorming out loud about vacation ideas and career plans: popular topics of conversation among stay-at-home parents. But instead of chiming in with her ideas, the other mom dropped a little buzzkill on me by saying, “I’m really just trying to live in the moment as much as possible these days.”
Huh? To say I was stunned would be an understatement. I mean, we were pushing our kids on swings on a humid summer day, and I was also keeping a strict eye on my son in the sandbox, who had a tendency to bite other kids when he got angry. I was dying for a glass of cold water while desperately needing to pee, and there were no facilities of any kind at the park. In other words, talking about jobs and vacations felt like a welcome diversion, and I couldn’t understand why would anyone want to savor that particular moment.
Of course, I understand now. Those relatively carefree moments at the park may be slightly stressful and rough on the bladder, but they’re also fleeting. Both of my kids are now in high school, and although I realize I no longer have the physical energy to care for toddlers, I wouldn’t mind going back to that moment for just a little while, and I’m grateful to the other mom who introduced me to mindfulness, and helped me focus more on seemingly insignificant times.
Nowadays, I try to be mindful whenever I can. The world is becoming an increasingly scary place, and there are days when I’m almost paralyzed by the fear of what will happen to my children as they navigate the teen years. Will they make dangerous choices? Get involved in the wrong things? Associate with people who will lead them into dark places. And while I fret about the future, I also worry about the past. Did I teach them the right stuff? And what about all the other people who’ve influenced my children’s thinking? I’m sure everyone has had good intentions, but have serious errors been made?
And here’s the most frustrating part. The answer to all these questions is who knows? Really. Who the hell knows?
That’s why I’m grateful for mindfulness. Because without it, I wouldn’t be typing right now. I wouldn’t be enjoying this quiet moment. I’d probably be crying, pacing, or envisioning various versions of the future: some peaceful, some tragic.
Instead, though, I’m doing my best to focus on breathing, and appreciating that I’m in a warm place with a roof over my head. A minute from now, the dog will probably jump up and demand his dinner, or the phone could ring, informing me of some triumph or tragedy.
We’ve seen terrible things happen recently all around the world. Closer to home, there are people in my life who are hurting terribly. Hence, I’ve been spending a lot of time hoping and praying that things will improve, hoping people can be healed physically and emotionally.
Meanwhile, as the holidays press closer, many people are anticipating joy, togetherness, warmth and love. Others expect pain and isolation. But again, who knows? Almost anything—good or bad—can happen in a second and everything can change.
In the end, then, the only thing we really have—the only thing we can be truly certain of—is this moment right now. And so, if you can, take a deep breath and feel it for what it is. Honor the emotions you’re feeling, embrace them, and realize they’re yours. Never again will you feel exactly like this.
OK? And when the moment’s over, try to be kind to someone else. Make a phone call, help someone with a chore, give someone you care about a hug. In other words, share the mindfulness. Give another person a reason to cherish a moment too.
If you’re interested in learning more about mindfulness, here’s a wonderful article by Thich Nhat Hanh, pictured above.