Last week I was walking out of Trader Joe’s toward my car, wrapping up an ordinary errand on an ordinary day.
But something happened, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.
It wasn’t anything dramatic. I was just wheeling my cart as I normally would. But I took a moment to look up at the sky, and suddenly my heart was melting with appreciation for being in that place, in that time.
It’s hard to explain, but I was overcome with the idea that this moment could be the greatest moment of my life if I opened up to its mystery. So I did.
It was such a simple shift, but the effects have stayed with me for days.
The truth is, most of us live our lives waiting for something to happen. Whether it’s waiting for the plumber, waiting for our pre-schooler to get dressed, or waiting for the end of a long day so we can tumble into bed, much of our life is about waiting for something to happen–something that we imagine will be better than the moment we’re in.
Eckhart Tolle has written, “Most people treat the present moment as if it were an obstacle that they need to overcome. Since the present moment is Life itself, it is an insane way to live.” This idea has resonated with me for a long time, but living it is a practice.
The truth is, the entirety of our lives is made up of one single moment trailing after another. Some are special, and some are tough. If your kids are fighting, it makes sense that you’d hope be watching the clock until school begins. If you’re exhausted, it’s natural that you’d be looking forward to bedtime. As Glennon Doyle wrote years ago, “Being told, in a million different ways to CARPE DIEM makes me worry that if I’m not in a constant state of intense gratitude and ecstasy, I’m doing something wrong.”
But it’s possible that we deprive ourselves of joy because we’re too much in the habit of looking to improve upon whatever’s happening right now.
In that moment of walking to my car and noticing the people around me, the warmth of the air, the sky…I saw how much of my life I miss by focusing on the next thing on my To Do list.
So I’ve been taking more Sacred Pauses (a term coined by Jack Kornfield), making more deliberate attempts to inhabit the moment I’m in, even if nothing special is going on. And what I’m finding to my surprise is that even the simplest moments can become portals for a deeply touching experience.
Perhaps you will consider giving yourself the gift of a Sacred Pause right now, to drop into quiet awe for whatever is going on: entering your pin on the credit card machine at the gas station…drying your hands after doing the dishes…waiting for a document to come out of the printer.
Nothing needs to change on the outside to open up wonderful possibilities for enriching our lives. Sometimes all it takes a little shift in our attention…and intention.