Like it or not, most of the passing moments bring something a bit different than what I am expecting. That’s really just a fact, an observation. Whatever I plan, even in the midst of doing something that I feel like I have complete control over (like writing this post…), moments seem to move in a slightly different way than I thought they might. Most of the time the changes are so small, so quantum-sized that they are virtually unnoticeable. That doesn’t change the fact of their existence. What does change is my perception and acceptance of them.
In the past few months there have been many, many changes, big and small, some noticed from afar and some by which I have been blind-sided. That is life. I’m grateful to be here now and able to look back at them. However, a lesson that I’m learning has to do with detaching my reactions to these changes from how they make me feel or how I react. This is a tough lesson, especially since I’m so conditioned by my upbringing, my life to date, my society, etc. to sink my expectations and desires into any number of goals or future stories I tell myself, consciously or not. It’s quite the trap.
A big one for me is driving (I think it may be for a lot of people, but that is a generalization…). I have an expectation of how easy and straight-forward it should be for me to, say, drive to work. It’s never true, but I have the expectation anyway. The road should be in a certain condition without blockages, the traffic should flow smoothly and allow me to flow effortlessly through stop lights (timed just right), with no other cars or trucks blocking my way, the onramps and off-ramps uncluttered, clear spaces for changing lanes….and so on. Like I mentioned, it’s never that way, but my internal driver keeps expecting it to be….and is beyond frustrated, upset and sometimes cross-eyed angry when it is not that way. Here is where the lesson takes place. There are a number things I remind myself of. The most over-arching of them is a kind of “it is what it is” attitude, but it is much less fatalistic than that. There is a give and take in each of these moments. When I am in that moment, it is the only moment I’m in (bear with me…I know that sounds a bit like a Zen koan…). Awareness allows me to be fully alive in that moment, enjoy it for what it is and act in a way that is appropriate not only for what is taking place in that moment, but allows me to apply my beliefs to it as well. I believe that I’m here to help others, so what that boils down to when I’m driving and living in the moment is a heightened awareness of “the other guy” on the road and my desire comes down to safety for all concerned. It helps if it has been a good day at work or I’m not stressed out, but since those are also known factors for me, I can take note of them and help them “unhook” from my feelings so they don’t make me act in ways I will regret.
As this lesson moves into the other parts of my life, I find myself oddly more aware during mundane moments (like brushing my teeth, vacuuming after my cats, or taking a moment to take a breath and just look up). I’ve read a number of works by Thich Nhat Hanh, Thomas Merton and Anthony de Mello that expound upon this kind of awareness, as well as works on flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, which I reread regulary to remind myself of the value of this way of being both to me and to those around me.
It is a lifetime journey and that’s OK.