October 26, 2008

Good day, team,

Out walking the other morning, preoccupied by thoughts about one of my clients, I suddenly marveled at the beauty I saw all around me.  The trees were colorfully arrayed with muted orange, fiery red and bright yellow leaves. The backdrop of greens and browns only added to their bright hues, and I found myself in awe of nature’s great showcase this time of year.

Until the beauty I beheld woke me up, I had been in imagination most of the morning. I hadn’t heard from this client in awhile, and I was worried about how the person was doing. My mind jumped from one worrisome thought to the next. In the moment when I came back to the present, I thought, “Try to be here, instead of in imagination about something else. It’s so beautiful here; try to remain aware of it.”

The next few minutes were a wonder. As my consciousness became more and more attuned to what was around me, I began to feel the crisp, cold air on my skin.  I could see faint traces of my breath in the air. I heard my feet as they walked over crunchy leaves on the sidewalk. Each tree was in the midst of transformation, many of them still green in some parts with others turning various autumnal colors. The sky was azure blue in places and still shrouded in fog elsewhere. The morning sun made big, broad diagonal strokes of light across the landscape as it majestically rose in the eastern sky. What a feast I was experiencing!

Just when I didn’t think the moment could get any better, I suddenly noticed hundreds of spider webs everywhere. They were strung between the leaves on the trees, hanging from the eaves on houses and across porch screens, woven in the small spaces between rocks. They glistened with tiny drops of morning dew like bright crystals. As I stopped to inspect one of them, the sun reflected on the dew drops and the intricate pattern of the web took my breath away. Surrounded by these miracles of the moment, I thought, “How appropriate that people use cobwebs as Halloween decorations. They’re everywhere!” But then I began to wonder whether they are always there, but I never see them because I’m so often in imagination.

In an attempt to return to the present, I decided not to analyze the subject of whether the cobwebs are always there or not, since I knew it would take me right back out of the moment again. How funny, that imagining being in the moment or analyzing why you’re either in it or not is just like any other kind of imagination: It takes you out of the moment and plunges you right back into imagination.

Your challenge this week is to be as present as you can so you can experience what’s going on around you. Try not to let your imagination take you away. This is harder to do than it sounds, so experiment with it. Challenge yourself to spend just five minutes being as present as you can. Part of the experience is seeing what tries to take you out of the moment as well as experiencing what’s in the moment.

Maybe you decide to take a short walk and try to see and hear as much as you can while walking. Perhaps you are working on a project, and you commit your attention to just what’s in front of you. If you strike up a conversation with someone, try to be present to that person’s tone of voice and facial expressions and to the words you’re exchanging. The emotions you feel as you speak with them and the thoughts that come into your mind as you respond to what they’re saying are all things you can observe to be fully in the moment while it’s happening. Whatever you decide to do for your experiment, enjoy the experience of simply being where you are, doing what you’re doing.

I believe that our consciousness is capable of far more expansion than we realize, and that it’s possible to be present to multiple things at once. By experimenting with our attention, we may find that there’s much more to life than we normally experience. It’s possible that it’s been here all along, but if we’re not present to it, it doesn’t exist for us, and we miss it. Just as I suddenly saw the exquisite spider webs, it’s possible in any moment to clear away the cobwebs of accidental thoughts from our minds and allow our attention to experience little gems that normally go unnoticed.

As the Chinese Zen Master Wu-Men Hui-k’ai (1183-1260) reminds us:

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter.
If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things,
this is the best season of your life.

Have a great week!