On February 5, 2016 my mother left her physical body. Even though I knew it was inevitable, the sadness of that loss has been intense and painful. I am glad to say, my grief of losing her is not complicated by regret. As I think back on the moments I spent with her, I am happy to say, for most of them I was present. I didn’t see her every day but when we were together, if I could I would sit beside her so I could touch her. I could feel the energy of her love as I rubbed her back, feeling the warmth of her heart. I held her hand, rubbed the soft skin of her arm, kissed her sweet cheek. I saw the sparkle in her eye as she reveled in being surrounded by her children. I heard and loved her laughter, it was full and unrestrained. Even at 93 she had a childlike sweetness that came out when she was happy: she would do a little wiggle with her torso and head, like a happy dance. I loved her completely and she knew it. Before she died she said “I know you’re sad but we all have to die sometime.” I said “I love you” and she said “I know you do, I can feel it.” And I knew she could. And I could feel her, loving me. I’m so grateful that I was present for those precious, ordinary moments.
Life is mostly ordinary moments. If we are present and aware in that moment we get to see and experience how precious life is. There is a miracle available in every moment of life for all of us. If it is so precious, why would we miss it?
We miss the precious,present moment because our attention is habitually on the past, future or lost in numbness. Without being conscious of our attention, it runs like a computer program pulling our minds away from now, away from life.
The past shows up in the form of shame, guilt, anger or even happiness of remembering something that was positive. We miss the present moment because there is some way we are re-experiencing the past. For most of us, this isn’t a conscious choice, but more an intrusion that is automatic. Someone says something and we find ourselves thinking about that person who made us mad or the deal that fell through. For some it plays like a record, or a narrative that is re-writing the script with words that we wish we would have said.
The future shows up with worry, habitual planning or even just an irritation because there is so much to do. This is different than intentional planning, these thoughts just happen without any effort or any productive end.
Numbing happens with the buzz of a device, calling you to look at a text or a post, or even an invitation to play a mind-numbing game. Again, often we find ourselves engaging without choice, but in response to a stimulus, like a well trained dog. It is almost as if we wake from a trance when someone calls us out.
So what do we do? If you are lucky enough to have someone you love with all of your heart, it is easy. Being with that person is so engaging that you don’t want to miss a second. But how about when you are alone? Our attention is like a muscle, the more you practice the better it becomes. Begin to notice how your attention is pulled away, then gently, with kindness, bring it back to this moment. Awareness is the first step.
Life is only a moment, one after another, each a precious, amazing gift. Life is here, waiting to be noticed and enjoyed.