Perfect Presence

Have you ever read something supposedly full of depth and meaning and walked away from it with only one thought, something along the lines of ~ “Huh? What the $#@&?’  For most all of my life that’s what all of those spiritual books and quotes said to me. Absolutely nothing. In fact, they often sounded like gibberish, foolish nonsense that I could never seem to wrap my mind around. My busy, chattering and frazzled mind. But, honestly, I wasn’t overly concerned, it hardly seemed worth the effort anyway. Besides, I had a diaper to change.

I understand now that I just wasn’t ready. I had neither the time nor the ambition to dig deeper. My life was full of nursing babies, barking dogs, mountains of laundry, meals to cook, school to plan. Sprinkle these chores with a generous dose of drama, sometimes self-induced, but more often "lovingly" contributed by those around me. I did not have the energy to figure out the cryptic words of Buddha. Or decipher the wise sermons of Jesus. It seemed much more pertinent to decipher the insistent, garbled ramblings of my 2 year old, or to comfort a crying newborn who has just realized that she signed on for this journey, and it was a lot more complicated than she initially thought…

I didn’t seek out spiritual or self help books. They didn’t appeal to me. But I’d still come across things like “Be here. Now. For this moment is all there is.” What? You could have fooled me. What about the next 7 days I’ve got jam-packed with play-dates, grocery shopping, plans…? This moment exists, but so does the next one, right? Right?

It just made me kind of dizzy to think on that for more than a fleeting moment. I was tiptoeing close to my truth, kind of warming myself up, but it was too soon. I was still busy constructing the saga of Melinda. The story of who I was, the definition of me. I was still too busy building opinions, forming judgments, cementing this image of myself. Little did I know it was all being done so that I could  one day tear it down, watch it crumble around me, and start over. Fresh.

A recent backyard visitor. A little too close to those peaches...
I get it now. I understand it in every cell of my being. They are no longer just words, but a way of living and approaching each day, each task, each breath. There is only now. There is only this moment. The rest, my past, my future ~ all stories in my head. All stories that aren’t happening in the here and the now. Yes, some are joyful stories that are fun to remember and cherish. Others may be full of heartache I’d rather forget. But none of them are happening now. They currently exist only in the realm of my overdeveloped and vivid imagination. Most certainly delightful to take out and admire on occasion (I do love a trip down Memory Lane!) , but not at the expense of this real moment that will be but a story soon enough.

I realized along the way that my present moments were always hopelessly tangled up in either thoughts of my past or the exhausting planning of a future that was unpredictable at best. I was especially good at this, the planning part. I’ve never been a worrier, but that’s only because I was such a detailed planner! I had an answer for every situation, what I would do if this happened, or how I would react under these circumstances. Yes, I know. I had far to go and much to learn. J

Sweet, termpermental Oscar
Some of you must know what I’m talking about, right? You’re folding laundry and instead of feeling the crunchy line-dried towels, or smelling the fresh sun-dried sheets, you’re lost in a drama in your head. What you should have said. Or should have done. Or will do next time. Sometimes I’ll rewrite the entire script, other times it’s just a matter of rehashing, reliving, tirelessly. Anger surfaces at words spoken weeks ago, or perhaps never at all. Guilt over actions performed months or even years ago. It feels as clear as if it were truly happening, but in reality? I'm folding towels. Most likely I managed to miss the joy inherent in that task while lost in thoughts of another time. Those joys, I've discovered, are woven into each and every chore, just waiting to be discovered. If only we could quiet that control freak of an ego…

Perhaps you’re walking the dog. Are you smelling the freshly mown lawn? Or noticing the brilliant blue sky dotted delightfully with popcorn clouds? Do you hear the bird song or the drone of insects? Sadly, at least for me, the answer was most always no. Emphatically no. My thoughts were more likely to take this ridiculous route ~ Hmmm, what’s for dinner? Do I have time to vacuum and pay bills before I start cooking? Oh! Don’t forget that Friday the chimney gets cleaned. Has Scott checked that dripping sink yet? Cuz that leak is pretty fierce you know. Think of all the water wasted, literally, right down the drain. How terrible of you, when half the world doesn’t have access to clean, disease free water,  wasting it like that. What kind of person are you? Yes, sweet potato fries would be good with dinner… ;)

Sugar ~ who could resist that ridiculous head attire?
It really is as silly as all of that. I thought I was planning a life, atoning for past grievances, righting wrongs. In fact I accomplished none of these things. All I did manage to do was clutter up a perfect, clean, clear moment with litter from the past, or debris from the future. I was trapped in the world of my thoughts, subsequently missing all the beauty and miracles around me. Actually sounds kind of sad, doesn’t it?

Well, you might argue, you do need to fix that leak. Sure, but not here, not now. This moment is full, because right now, I’m walking the dog. Period. My job is to enjoy this experience before I move onto the next. I had to learn to live each step, each breath, each breeze. There is great peace to be found here, underneath all of those stories, in the journey of this moment. The only moment. The perfect moment. J

Several years ago when things finally started to make sense, when those ridiculous quotes began to take on actual meaning to me, I began trying to live presently, or consciously. I was blown away. It was hard! There were almost no moments during the entire course of the day that just unfolded while I appreciated the perfection of it all. Even now, years later, and knowing what I now know, I still struggle to stay present.  There is one enormous difference between now and then, however. Now I know it can be better, so I constantly remind myself. Every time I catch myself floating off on the wings of an imaginary conversation I whisper the word ‘clear’.  It’s like I wipe the chalkboard clean. I begin again. It stops the train wreck of my thoughts and gives me at least a moment of clarity. One delicious breath of presence.

I’ve been working the past several days at bringing myself back to the peaceful state I have discovered and vowed never to leave again… (hmmmm, so much for plans!) J I spent yesterday in an active state of presence. Where the mundane, everyday chores become special. Become sacred.

Scott built me this amazing goat shed/chicken coop. I have the most talented husband ever. :)

Doesn't he just look like he's saying Thank You? ;)

My sweet and beautiful Tansy

What did I notice while cleaning the goat shed? I felt deliciously cool morning breezes. I smelled fragrant pine shavings. I felt cold hose water as I scrubbed water buckets as hot sun warmed my back. I then admired that clean water bucket filled with crisp, frigid well water, air bubbles clinging to the sides.  I noticed dirty windows, now sparkling clean. I saw freshly raked dirt, dry, hot and dusty. I felt happy goats, nudging my hands, knocking me off balance in their desperate bids for my attention.

I diced potatoes for lunch, what could I notice here? I smelled the earthy scent of a vegetable which lived its life underground. I felt soft chunks of potato slide across the glass cutting board. I admired the clean efficiency of my sharp knife, effortlessly slicing. I noticed the many veins in my hands and wondered when they arrived. I felt the ache in my shoulder from too many hours spent crocheting. I heard the soft music. I enjoyed the cool kitchen floor beneath my feet.

It really is amazing how vibrant life gets when you try to live consciously. Not just appreciating the moment, but living it fully and experiencing all of the details that surround and encompass it. I distinctly remember how vivid colors became when I first starting to become aware. It was like I was seeing things for the first time, clearly and deliberately.

It often turns things around for me, remembering to live consciously and be present for my life. It’s a practice that has become indispensible, almost habit. Perhaps these are things you’ve already learned and already implement. If so, than your life must be full of color, awe, joy. :) Perhaps this sounds like gibberish nonsense, and that's perfectly okay too. We're all here, figuring things out at our own pace, in our own perfect time.

I'll leave you now, because my body is urging me to 'be present' while I filll it with food! ;) So, I'm off to enjoy each crumb, each flavor, each texture... :)

Peace & blessings ~ Melinda