Wake Up Calls

I think we’ve all had moments when we felt our entire world shift in an instant.

“I don’t want to be in this relationship anymore.”

”Your pregnancy test is positive.”

“Congratulations!  You’ve been accepted.”

“I’m sorry to tell you that we found cancer.”

This last one is on my mind as I pray for a friend who is struggling with this diagnosis, waiting for the tests to reveal more information, and struggling for her very breath in the ICU. Just a few months ago, cancer was no more on her mind than winning the lottery. And now today, it is a mountain looming before her and her husband. Their world changed in the instant of her diagnosis.

We hear the phrase “cherish every moment” so often that we may not even really hear the words anymore, or feel the weight of their meaning. Crises have a way of reminding us that the world is unpredictable. No matter how careful we are, things happen that we could not predict or prevent, and of course, that is true of our death as well. We will die, and we do not know when. When you’re hugging someone who just lost her husband and seeing the loss in her eyes, you feel keenly aware of this reality. It’s more of a challenge to remember to cherish the moments when you’re bored, waiting in line at the grocery store, or mindlessly driving from point A to point B.

I’m not advocating living in a constant state of angst and worry, thinking “One day, I will die,” becoming morose and somber. I don’t think we should insulate ourselves in our apartments or houses and live in an overprotective state of false concern, thinking we’re being safe and responsible for ourselves and our children by limiting our interactions with the world. I don’t think we should not live while we’re still alive.

Rather, live!  And be as mindful as possible in as many moments as possible. Being mindful in the present moment is the way we live the saying, “Cherish every moment.”

Climb a tree!

Thank your body for another day of moving you about in the world. Be the one to call a friend and invite him out for a cup of coffee. Don’t be afraid to have the hard conversation with someone you love – there’s no other way to bring about healing and intimacy. Reach for a perfectly ripe peach and taste the sunshine in the juice running down your chin instead of grabbing a processed flour and sugar donut or other food devoid of nutrition. Stop worrying about whether or not someone is watching or what others think of you (what I call “junior high syndrome”) and act, speak, sing, dance, dress, choose in ways that inspire and lift you up as long as they don’t hurt anyone or anything else, including yourself. Don’t fall into the, “I’ll do that when I retire” trap and put off travel or taking up tai chai – do it today, this year.  Make sure everyone you love has heard you say that you do, and what they mean to you. Learn to swim, get skinned knees, camp in the woods and get dirty. Touch the earth and let it move you. Let your child climb a tree, have some freedom.

I chose to write about this today because my heart aches for my friend and her husband, a crisis that brought home the need to be grateful and mindful in each moment, whether it’s a moment of happiness or a moment of suffering. I am learning and practicing mindfulness each day, so one day I won’t need a crisis to jolt me into awareness. I will be as present when I’m unloading the dishwasher as I am when deeply listening to a friend who is in pain.

Just like baseball practice has drills and exercises, we can engage in mindfulness practice. Some of my current practices consist of going to meditate with a group when they meet on as many Wednesdays and Sundays as I can, going to yoga, taking meditative walks, gardening, writing, and saying, “Thank you, body!” each morning when I step out of bed and stretch, grateful to live another day. My partner reaches for my hands before we eat a meal together, and he takes time to quietly look into my eyes with appreciation, just being still for a time.

What practices bring you fully into the present moment?  Is there a new practice you’ll begin to increase your capacity for being mindful?  How and when do you express gratitude?

Any moment we are mindful helps us become more peaceful, which helps the whole world become more peaceful. We don’t know if we have a tomorrow, so we must wake ourselves up today, and each day.

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