There is a spiritual practice that helps us concentrate on what we have: the current moment. You can find references to this is in many different traditions. In the Christian tradition it is called “Centering Prayer.” Different techniques help to guide the individual into an emptying of the “noise” of the outside world and releasing our own inner thoughts. This emptying of what was and what will be, of quieting outside and inner noise, is a meditative opening to the presence of God.
In the midst of this pandemic, we can see that this current moment is the most important thing. The ways in which we usually measure our future — up-coming trips, traditional celebrations of a birthday or the rituals that follow the calendar year — all of these measurements have been disrupted, altered or even cancelled. How we will experience them, more than at any other time, is uncertain as we look forward in time.
And the past feels so hazy. Things that took place in February 2020 seem to be so last year! Let alone the things that were just a year ago today. That amount of time feels much longer ago.
What we know best is this moment. What we have the power to experience is in this moment.
I have many colleagues who work in communities with neighborhoods of individuals who live with dementia. For those residents, the past is a jumbled treasure that is recalled with varying degrees of clarity and fog. The future is sometimes something that is too difficult for them to accurately calculate.
What they know is what they see and hear and feel in this moment. Those colleagues tell me that when they are having a challenging day, one of their preferred methods of finding peace and calm is to visit the residents in those neighborhoods. I suspect it is related to the fact that people there are living with an acute awareness of the present moment.
One Moment in Time
This blog begins a series in which our writers challenged each other to take a picture of a moment and reflect on that experience or image. I realized later that we were participating in this practice of centering.
I have to admit that as we talked about this series, a tune started worming its way through my consciousness. The tune was made famous by Whitney Houston. I had to look up the words to remember them. Here is the first verse, which is the most poignant for me:
Each day I live
I want to be
A day to give
The best of me
I’m only one
But not alone
My finest day
Is yet unknown.
The rest of the song shares the feeling of wanting to be more, to dream dreams that have not yet been realized. There is an element of relying on oneself for all these things to come true as we “race with destiny,” even as the pain of failures and disappointments remain. But these words from verse 1 are the ones that keep coming back to me.
The reality is that every picture taken, every word spoken, every musical performance is the essence of that particular moment. But — what if you were to pause at any given point in the day and notice the world around you? What would you notice?
Between the Storms
With this challenge in mind, I decided to take a chance recently. It was a rainy August day. I donned my red raincoat, my most water-repellent one, and pulled the hood up when the first drops hit my head as my feet hit the sidewalk. We have been in a stretch of very rainy cool days, and the break between rain bursts have not always coincided with my schedule to walk between them. But I had had enough. I needed to get out of the house. And so, I turned left and around the corner to enter the trail in the nearby woods. I figured that the tree branches would provide an umbrella from the slow drops leaking from the overhead clouds.
As I re-emerged onto the street, a single raindrop clinging to the underside of the leaf caught my attention. I didn’t spend time contemplating the path that this drop took down to this particular leaf. I didn’t worry about what would happen when the bond between them was released. I just noticed.
One Drop at Dusk
In that moment, that one drop was able to capture the light before it was gone for the night and before it was swept away in the coming storm. That little drop magnified the light and caught my eye against the gray sky as I stopped. And I noticed. (And I pulled out my phone to take the picture.) And I wondered.
To what do I cling in these moments full of storms of information — all too tragic and harsh? And how does my life, set against the backdrop of the storms around us, capture the light so as to give someone else a ray of hope?
Give the Best
I watched as the drop continued to cling there at leaf’s end. And I wondered if that was the finest day for that single drop? (Houston’s song worming its way back into my consciousness in that moment.)
In that moment, that drop was only one, but not alone. There were millions of other drops all around —and millions more soon poured down from the clouds above, undoubtedly pulling the drop to join them in the cycle of water returning to Earth. And yet, in that moment, because it was clinging to the leaf, I was able to notice the magnification of the diffuse light coming through that one drop. Was that the best that one drop could give in that particular moment?
On this day, may each of our lives be the day in which we give our best. May we recognize that although we are only one, we are not alone.
And in our noticing the details of this moment in time, may we receive the blessings which we need to magnify the light of love around us.