Stop, Look, and Listen
Leslie Levine

  

On the afternoon of her fortieth birthday, I called a friend to wish her well.  I asked about her plans for the rest of the day and learned that a celebration had already taken place.  In the morning, my friend, her two sisters, and her husband had risen high into the Kentucky sky in a hot-air balloon.  "What was it like?" I asked.  "Well, I don't know if I can explain it," she said.  "I was so focused on the moment, when it was actually happening."

What I learned from my friend that morning is that sometimes, to be in the moment, you must surrender to it completely.  That's not to say you won't remember it later, though you may forfeit the chance to put the moment into words.  And although I couldn't say exactly what my pal experienced that morning, I heard the thrill and awe in her voice.

To truly be present, one must live inside the moment and experience it for its own sake.  If you live outside the moment--observing and explaining--you're no longer absorbing and feeling.  The moment breaks apart and eventually disappears.  Think of a movie.  Sometimes it's impossible to explain what you've seen.  On another level, though, one you can't necessarily pinpoint, you know that once you begin dissecting your experience, you take away from it as well.

When you live inside the moment, you break ties with the past and the future.  You put aside yesterday's regrets and shelve the fears of tomorrow, because ultimately these moments have minds of their own.  And like sand through your fingertips, moments can't be held for long.  Even if you only have them by a thread, your moments are worth holding on to, especially when you put them all together.  After all, isn't a succession of moments what our lives are all about?

As hard as we try to hold onto our moments--recognizing and honoring them-- it's still tempting, habitual really, to let them go, to minimize their presence.  Instead of collecting them, we scatter our moments like marbles that roll in every direction.  It reminds me of that old game, Hot Potato.  Get rid of it, quick!  It's as if we don't know what to do with the moment, as if we really have to do something with it.

Perhaps our penchant for minimizing the moment has something to do with waiting.  As children, many of us learned exceedingly well how to wait.  Wait until you're older, wait until you're bigger, wait until you finish your homework, wait until after school, wait until after dinner.  We were told to wait a lot.  So we waited, and instead of enjoying the moment, we focused on what we were waiting for.  It's not surprising then that we tend to downgrade the moment or miss it altogether.

As I get older, the moment has become increasingly more important.  When I yield to the moment, I stop fretting and worrying about the future.  I stop guessing at what may happen and, instead, pay attention to what's right before my eyes.  Sometimes the moment exhilarates like a bright and unexpected shooting star.  Other times, the moment is painful, as if I'm getting poked repeatedly in the side.

A few years ago, I sat on my son's bedroom floor folding some baby clothes that he'd outgrown.  I could feel the sadness and regret creeping in, but I wanted so badly to feel OK about the passage of time.  I quickened my pace to push the pain away.  I wanted the moment to be over.  Suddenly, though, I looked up and noticed a very blue sky staring down through the window.  Just feel it, I said to myself, as I slowed down, trying to focus on the task in front of me.  I held a shirt close to my face and inhaled as deeply as I could.  My heart seemed to crack and fill up at the same time as feelings of hope and loss collided right there in a pile of little boy's old clothes.  When I finally got up to leave the room, I wasn't sad anymore.  Instead, I thought about the miraculous growth of a child, whose shirt size is less about loss and more about the gift of life itself.

I don't know if you can live inside each and every moment.  But when you can, try to stop, look, and listen long enough to be right where you are, not in your past, not in your future.  Just right in the middle of a split second in time.
       
   

Ice Cream for Breakfast
helps readers capture
those moments of self-indulgence
that are often gained through
appreciating life's smallest
pleasures. From enjoying a
big bowl of Rocky Road
for breakfast to reveling in
the beauty of your toes,
52 short essays reveal the
simple truth: you really
have to take care of
yourself if you're going to
take care of others.

more on now

  


 
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Be here in the moment, as an artist is here with focused attention,
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Be here in the moment, as an athlete is here in that sweet spot
of time when everything is effortless, fluid, and free.  The banquet
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partake of the present moment without regrets for the past or
fears of the future.  Pledge yourself to the moment and let it teach
you.  Surrender yourself to the moment and let it preach you.

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People who are “being” are fully present.  They are totally engaged in
the moment.  This engagement includes an easy appreciation and sense
of connection with whomever or whatever they are relating to at the time.
These people are aware of a job well done or a difficulty surmounted and
will respect and often acknowledge the person who has accomplished it.
“Being” is a state of heart and mind that is receptive
and able to listen carefully.

Sallirae Henderson

  
    

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