We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.
I didn’t intend to meditate. Yet here I was, sitting cross-legged on a rectangular stone, just above the beach. The sun, up for more than an hour, had reached the point where the breeze caught its heat and I could feel its warmth on my cheek.
It was quiet. Just the gentle, constant push of the waves upon the beach, the call of a few seagulls. And me, sitting on this rock with my eyes closed. I concentrated on the sound of the ocean and on the breeze and on my breathing. I couldn’t stop thinking that I would never be in this place ever again. Life offers us so many experiences. It’s hard to know which to capture and which to discard. But it is absolutely a mistake to treat them like commodities you could just pop up to the Speedway and buy cheap off a rack like M&M’s.
I was on vacation with my family in Florida. We were staying in this beautiful little boutique hotel called the Lotus Inn in Ormond Beach. The hotel sits right on a wide, flat beach. To the south is the Spring Break craziness of Daytona.
I like to get up early on vacation, before anyone else is awake. I went to the lobby to grab a coffee, greeted the German shift manager and headed out to the pool to read and watch the sunrise.
I was already a little late. The sun was well on its path up and there were a few people passing by down on the sand. No one was yet at the pool. It was an ideal setting to sip my coffee and read. I felt a deep, mystical joy like I was experiencing something for the very first time. It was the kind of bliss you might notice after making love to your wife or husband or watching your kid master something difficult.
Then it occurred to me. Why is it we so often rush through our experiences with out taking an accounting? I realized I will most likely never be in this spot ever again.
I had no expectation of any revelations. I just wanted a tranquil place to enjoy a few pages of a Haruki Murakami novel and my coffee. But the moment grabbed me and pulled me in. After a bit I put down my book and stared at the ocean. Something so simple and complex as the water collapsing against the shore over and over again in an indecipherable rhythm. There is no more peaceful sight and sound, I thought.
I closed my eyes, and using what little meditation training I’ve had, slipped from listening to the ocean to focusing on my breathing. I sat only for about 10 minutes but it was 10 exquisite minutes of nothingness. My head was clear. There was no past and no future. Only this moment.
Then it occurred to me. Why is it we so often rush through our experiences without taking an accounting? I realized I will most likely never be in this spot ever again. There will be no do-over at the Lotus Boutique Inn and Suites. No first trips to the Harry Potter adventure at Universal Studios with my kids. No first times feeling my stomach churn on The Hulk roller coaster.
Even more important, my children will grow up and move on. My wife and I will have other things to attend to. Experiences are only fresh once. After that, the same experiences become mistakes. Before you know it massive amounts of time have passed and for what?
As I sat and explored this idea, I realized that we can’t capture every moment. This one would have been perfect to pack in my suitcase and take home. But how much pleasure and wisdom have I missed, I wondered, because I was in a hurry or uncomfortable and just wanted these moments over with?
How much pleasure and wisdom have I missed because I was in a hurry or uncomfortable and just wanted those moments over with?
The moments we assemble ARE life. My sixth grade teacher admonished me to “groove on the step I was now taking”. I realized this is what he probably meant. What he was telling me in 1970 to pay attention to I was just realizing in this moment–BE PRESENT.
I have this theory that we can improve our feelings about the past by being more present today. The past is today one day older. If one is aware and engaged in building the best life, then the work is assembling one great moment after another in the present.
When I see people in a hurry, rushing who knows where, I always wonder why the haste? What is so important?
The past is today one day older.
Even the simplest of journeys can become more pleasurable if we simply focus on this moment. There is a great scene in the movie Say Anything where John Cusack’s Lloyd Dobbler talks about the future with his girlfriend’s father. Much to the father’s chagrin, Lloyd is ultimately only focused on the present. “I just want to spend as much time hanging with your daughter,” he says.
Say you are on a bus on the way to work. You smile at the driver as you get on and pay your fare. You catch someone’s eye and nod as you take your seat. Your smiles and your nods are returned in a singular truth of Karma. Everything feels more relaxed. Slowed down. In control. You breathe easier. You notice spring is slowly taking over from winter. There is fresh green mixed with the dead brown. People are out walking.
If we slow down and focus on just this time, each moment has the potential to be greater.
This is just one example from this simple thought: If we slow down and focus on just this time, each moment has the potential to be greater. It is not that we won’t still have challenges. But even unpleasant experiences can be fuller, more robust and can give us lessons we can apply later.
But don’t worry about later. Go find a beach and find your sunrise and a warm breeze and listen to your breathing.