Tuesday, September 19, 2017

What Makes A Moment Good

This past week, in preparation for one of my mindfulness groups, I tried an exercise I was planning on sharing. It was a straightforward task of reflecting on the summer and writing down all of what felt good in it. My list was bigger than I expected, which is often the case, and is one of the gifts of the exercise…we get to see how much goodness is there. This time, there was something that caught me by surprise even more than the size of my list.

As I started reflecting, one of the most readily available moments that came to me was actually a moment that harbored some struggle. We were on our week long vacation to Maine, a trip that I am eager to get to every year. We had three days left. The kids were at day camp on the island and Mike went for a rock climbing lesson for half the day. I was looking forward to having a time of solitude…the only one on the trip. I decided to take a walk on a trail on the opposite side of the pond from which I usually walk. For years I had seen people jumping from what seemed like a high cliff off the mountain into the pond. From that distance, it seemed like a formidable jump, but clearly had to be safe enough for people to do repeatedly. I thought I'd scout it out for all of us to possibly return to later in the day. When I climbed up to where it was off of the path, I felt a sense of satisfaction at being in this spot I had always marveled at from a distance. The rock on which I stood was sloped downward. To see where I would land if I jumped, I had to slowly inch my way down the rock face until I could see the water below me. This was no small jump. Simply standing there on that slant made me uneasy, so I crouched down into a squat to be closer to the earth — to literally find the ground beneath me. The people I had seen jumping did it so easily, or so it looked from my vantage point on the other side of the pond. On this side, I could feel that it took much more than the eye could visibly see. Courage, adrenaline, fearlessness. I didn't know that I could muster any of this or if I even wanted to. But, in this moment, I wasn't here to decide. This was just a scouting trip, so I sat down, instead, on the steep slant and lightly pondered the jump. I was alone there in the quiet of this stunning, morning landscape and as I let my mind move on from the prospect of jumping or not, what came was much harder. I realized how much of that trip, including this very morning was fraught with the sense that it was going too fast, that I wasn’t feeling rested or at ease yet on my vacation and that it wasn’t enough. I was struggling inside. This was followed by the voices of judgement that said, “you’re not being very present; you're not taking this in. How can you be unhappy and complain on vacation, in this beauty?” As I listened more, I realized that the week away, as it was, really wasn't “enough,” that my body and mind were telling me I needed more rest, more of a break from all that I had done over the year. I let that information just sit. There was nothing to do, but just feel the feeling and let it be. I didn’t have to fix it. I didn’t have to deny it, change it, or convince myself otherwise. I could simply feel the need making itself loud. And then I sat and meditated before heading back. 

This might sound bewildering. You might, understandably, be thinking… “this was what you remembered as a good moment? A struggle and a realization that your vacation wasn’t enough?” Yes, and it was perfect. As I recall it now, I feel the peacefulness and sheer beauty of the place that morning on that rock. I sense the spaciousness I felt at listening to what my heart and body had to say. I was able to arrive at compassion for myself and replaced judgement. That moment now resonates in me as one where I was truly present. It might not have been full of joy, in fact, I felt tears, but it was full of awareness, listening, love and I was surrounded by natural beauty. It goes to show me that moments of goodness aren't always warm and fuzzy. They aren't always happy or easy. Moments of goodness are moments when we are connected to what is really alive in us and we have permission to just be there. 

In the end, I did not jump from the high place when we returned that day. There was a lower rock that we climbed down to. It was more like 6 feet from the water, which was plenty high for me. My body and mind didn’t need a challenge or an adventure this trip. Instead, I needed that moment of realization on that rock that has since helped shape my fall. I am being much more aware of preserving my down time, of letting myself rest, of putting kind boundaries around my work. For all of that awareness, I am grateful.