In my earlier post I wrote about a weekend when time slowed down. I relaxed at a friend’s cottage, and the leisurely dawdle in time allowed me to notice images of wings that came to me.
Immediately after that weekend, time accelerated from dawdle to flash and I rushed from activity to activity: social events, my daughter’s graduation from university, travel to the Canadian Writers’ Summit in Toronto and the launch of an anthology that includes one of my short stories. Whoosh.
I did my best to stay in the moment for all those fun and meaningful moments, but I had little time to luxuriate in noticing. Except once.
During a writers’ summit poetry session held in a marquis tent at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre, one of the leaders asked us to notice something in our immediate surroundings: one unusual or interesting aspect of the setting. I looked up, around and then down. On the paving stones beneath my feet I noticed something that would have escaped me otherwise: bright platters of colourful paint. The stones beneath my feet were the setting for poetry at that moment, but in the not-too-distant past children had played and created with paint there. I imagined their laughter and playful shouts.
The workshop leader gave me the gift of time to notice.
I’ll pay it forward. Take some time to notice. What gift is there for you that you might not have appreciated otherwise?
The Blood Is Thicker anthology, published by Iguana Books, includes my short story, “Beating the Odds.” Available here: Blood Is Thicker
We have an art gallery in our church. A recent display featured the work of Leonard Minni, an artist who lived in Rwanda before during and after the 1994 genocide.
He visited our congregation to tell us about the theme for his exhibition: Time.
The crowd listened in awed silence as he told us that many of his pieces involve sunsets, because when he watched the sun set during the trauma in 1994 he wondered if he would live to see the sun rise, and would he live to see another sunset?
One never knows what life holds.
Savour moments as precious. Soak up those sunsets. Be mindful with your Time.
When people preoccupy themselves with minutia instead of thinking “big picture,” the popular saying goes: “They can’t see the forest for the trees.” Upon hearing it, worried people step back, let go of insignificant concerns and observe situations from a broader perspective. That’s a good thing.
Sometimes, we need to flip that saying on its head: “They don’t see the tree for the forest.”
Last weekend I walked in Gilles Grove near Arnprior, ON, and I came upon a bright spot in the forest. The sight of one mighty ancient white pine all by itself in the middle of tiny saplings struck me. There were no other trees even close to its age and size nearby. The picture cannot give you perspective on just how mighty and ancient this tree was. When I attempted to wrap my arms around it (yes, I hugged the tree) they would not even reach half way.
This tree is hundreds of years old.
I imagined our First Nations people brushing up against it as a they moved through the forest centuries ago. I thanked the powers that be for sparing it from the blades of the lumber barons who logged the area beside the Ottawa River, felling the much-favoured white pines by the hundreds.
I spent some time appreciating this one tree, and I thought, “How often do people really notice, think about and appreciate one tree when they walk in a forest?” Usually we stride by them. They pass in a blur.
Sometimes we don’t see the tree for the forest.
It’s a reminder to take time to stop in the forest of our lives and really examine closely one extraordinary thing around us that we might otherwise stride by mindlessly.
It’s an enriching way to spend some time, even if your arms don’t reach.
There I was, walking in the woods, not bothering anyone, when—ZZzzzt—out of nowhere a large insect dive-bombed into my neck and stung. It was a large insect, so the impact alone stunned me. Then the sharp sting. It happened so fast and hurt so much, I didn’t see what kind of insect it was. It struck and then buzzed off, literally.
I gasped at the sharp, pain. Ow!
I stopped. I’ve never been allergic to insect stings, but you never know when that might start, and the sting was on my neck where swelling would be dangerous. I was alone and far enough away from home that a serious allergic reaction would have meant big trouble.
I waited to see if there would be swelling, and there wasn’t, so I carried on. No biggie, right?
But the unexpected attack set me to pondering the fragility of our daily lives, and how sudden, unforeseen events sometimes turn best-laid plans upside down. There we are, walking along, not bothering anyone, when—ZZzzzt—catastrophe dive-bombs in. Impact. Sting.
When those things happen, I re-evaluate what is important. Have I showed my kids that I love them today? What was the last thing I said to my husband when he left in the morning? What will I do today to make the world a better place?
I didn’t know what happened to that large insect to make it so angry before it performed its airstrike on me. Perhaps a dog-walker disturbed it? Maybe nothing happened to it, and I simply had the misfortune to encounter the Oscar the Grouch of the insect world.
I did know that asking “Why me?” would be a waste time. Why not me?
The only thing to do when ZZzzzt happens is to stop, wait, re-evaluate and carry on with new mindfulness of what is really important.
This short clip from 60 Minutes serves as a fitting follow-up to my Tuesday post about thinking.
Anderson Cooper wires up his brain to show visual evidence of the calming effects of meditation. When Cooper drops into meditation after thinking about a stressful event, his brain responds immediately. His brain leaves behind the red stress zone and enters a “blue mindfulness zone.”
For centuries, meditation practitioners have touted the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional benefits of meditation, but naysayers dismissed the claims as a bunch of unscientific hooey. Scientific evidence gives such naysayers permission to trust in the unseen.
The next time stress-inducing thoughts pop into your head, remember Anderson Cooper’s brain, focus on your breath and find your own blue mindfulness zone.
Click on the link below to watch the video: 60 Minutes