Being Present

As I woke this morning, three little puffs of cloud – the only ones in the sky – were framed in the window at the foot of my bed. I lay watching them through the leaves of a night-blooming cereus plant, waiting for the sun to come up above the eastern hill and finish lighting the sky. The clouds seemed immovable, virtually unchanging in what is obviously a windless day. Then, just as the sun began to shine directly into the east window, the puffs merged into one larger pillow, rising up and out of my sight. When I got up to look for what remained of them, the white fluff had thinned and was disappearing against the lighted blue background of a clear morning sky.

I’ve reflected on snow, and last week on the howling wind. This morning of remarkable stillness seems to be a special invitation to stop and consider the hectic pace of my recent weeks, not only of work but in my private and inner life as well. Never one to rush into new situations, new relationships, I have been meeting three to five people (clients) a week, and getting to know them and their family members quite intimately. Drawn into helping them access services which will resolve serious problems they are facing, I am exposed to the challenges and rewards of life in a very personal way that reveals how nothing stands still, even when we feel as though nothing is changing.

First gifts

First gifts

Several small birds have appeared in my long picture widow, flitting around one juniper tree, and two neighbor dogs have just trotted into the pasture, sure to initiate a barking greeting from my ever-vigilant min-pin Doodles and his woolly poodle companion, Warrior. The sun now slants directly into the window at my side, forcing me to lower the shade in order not to be blinded. Small changes – an inch of rise of the sun, a flutter of birds – and the day has shifted. A contrast to the experience of focusing on a single issue – such as finding a job, or getting a driving license – when it can seem as though nothing changes day after day because the single object of focus and desire is not obtained.

One of the greatest gifts from my MasterPath instruction has been an increasing ability to notice the small differences and changes occurring during periods of waiting for some larger event. My Teacher speaks of the need for certain karmas (external situations) to exhaust themselves in our lives, stressing that spiritual growth need not be delayed until after XXX (I get sober, I am able to retire, I find a job). How one views one’s days and the way one approaches the occurrences of each day are both the means and the opportunity for growth. In that light, the AA injunction of “one day at a time” is an important reminder that life is lived, and changes evolve, not in some distant future, but here and now, day by day.

Wisdom of my Teacher

Wisdom of my Teacher

It seems as though my recent spiritual lessons have emphasized not just one day at a time, but one hour, sometimes one minute – bringing out how malleable time, or one’s perception of time – can be. I began with a comment about the hectic pace of my recent weeks, yet that pace only seems hectic when I look at how few days I’ve spent entirely at home, compared to pre-job weeks of days when I didn’t leave the house. If I count how many trips I’ve taken to different communities, how many new clients I’ve met, how much driving around the countryside has filled my recent weeks, I can feel as though there has been no time for me, no time to reflect, to write, to evolve. On the other hand, I remember that I noticed snow geese amongst the Canadians by the pond near town; watched a hawk catch a rabbit on the prairie outside Roy; learned more about Cameroon from stories shared during some of the longer drives; observed the relaxation of a tense body as a harried son who gave up his job last fall, to care full-time for his disabled mother, learned from me that he could have income within a month, being paid to provide that care. I remember these small moments, and time stretches.

Hectic, for me, is when I feel as though events have been rushing at me with no time to consider them, to notice details, to organize and structure experiences or – related to my new work – to prioritize what must be done. From that perspective, my commitment to myself to continue to post weekly is a commitment to limit the hectic pace the job could demand. At least once a week I must stop and reflect, and in this moment’s case, realize that I also stop and reflect frequently throughout each busy day. Noticing the geese, the hawk, the easing of tension are moments of reflection, of being present rather than reaching forward to an as yet non-existent future.

Only Canadians, no Snows

Only Canadians, no Snows

My mind has challenged the idea of being present with the moment when that moment is perceived as difficult, painful, scary or otherwise negative.

Why would one want to be fully present in a recent day of flu-induced aching and nausea? The lesson mind needed to learn was that during that day, other things were also occurring worth noticing, worth being present with. During that day, my one large dog, a retriever-cross named Blackjack, stayed on the porch and insistently close to me rather than spending his time as he usually does, out in the pastures. During that day, cotton tails appeared three separate times in the pasture. During that day one Christmas cactus put forth a single white flower, though the plant had never bloomed before.

On a recent day when I was physically exhausted but nonetheless had to drive 80 miles of winding roads on an urgent visit to a client, I was gifted to have a companion for the drive, and to receive the encouragement of expressed appreciation for my effort, from both the companion and from the client. I also saw multiple frozen waterfalls glued to rocks in the canyon through which I drove, and remembered and shared the story of a triple rainbow that had filled one field when I traveled that road in the past.

Little things to be present with. Little things which, accumulated, become large, become the frame and the tone and the import of each day. Again, my Teacher instructs that we are always free to choose what we give our attention to. Attention is food – what is fed grows. I choose to feed appreciation, present moments, what is. In such small steps, with present moments of attention, what can be is also fed, given form, and enabled to appear.

Baraka bashad.
Amen.
May the Blessings Be.

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