Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Present moments you'd rather skip
"To train in staying open and curious--to train in dissolving the barriers that we erect between ourselves and the world--is the best use of our human lives."--Pema Chodron
"Ordinary life might seem hassled, repetitive, and boring. When you are impatient, resentful, or uninterested in daily life, you will be blind to the the potential for living cheerfully and creatively."--Andy Karr and Michael Wood, from their essay "Mindfulness, Photography, and Living an Artistic Life"
How do you remain present, drinking in the moment with all your senses, if what you're experiencing is something you'd rather escape?
I was in the Hynes Convention Center T station last night when this question popped up. I was trying to read my copy of The Mindfulness Revolution but I kept looking up waiting for a train that wasn't coming. The station was packed with mostly college students from Berklee, with their bass guitar cases, ears plugged up with the sounds of their latest downloads. I recently made a conscious decision not to use headphones in public because I didn't like the way I was purposely cutting myself off from the world. So now I only use them when I'm at the gym, where I think it's OK to zone out to classic rock (which now means bands like Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Live, the stuff we were listening to in college. So what does that make Led Zeppelin and The Doors? Classical rock?)
So there was some breakdown on the Green Line and trains were running behind schedule. Nothing newsworthy there. But at that moment I wanted to be anywhere but standing in that station. It's been a while since I've had a vacation. I need to escape Brookline for a while--at least for a week. I'm tired of the snow and sleet and piles of dog sh*t everywhere because people seem to think the poo will melt along with the snow, so they might as well leave it there. If I have to climb a curbside mountain of snow in high-heeled boots, sometimes even sinking and getting stuck, to scoop up Carmelita's mess into a little pink baggie, and then carry that baggy swinging in my right hand like a noxious evening bag for the rest of the walk, so should every other dog owner. Maybe I'll write an Op-Ed for The Brookline Tab about that. When exactly did I turn into an 80-year old man?
T.S. Eliot was wrong--March, not April, is the cruelest month. Unless you're Irish there really isn't anything to celebrate, and the weather hasn't turned yet, so even when it's the first day of spring it doesn't feel any different from the last day of winter. March is 31 days of blah, unless you have Spring Break and plans to go to Daytona, or better yet, you have tickets to South America where you're going to help build houses or something.
The usual escapes--clothes shopping, red wine, chocolate, buying books to add to the Jenga-like pile on my bedside table--none of these things are working to snap me out of my funk. So if I can't find enjoyment in my usual escapes and I don't want to live in the present moment, then where is there to go? I guess acceptance of what is. Practicing gratitude. Not judging your circumstances as either good or bad. Letting yourself be bored or tired or cranky and not actively trying to change it. If you wait long enough, moods naturally shift.
So when I'm sandwiched between a college boy in a hoodie who hasn't showered since Friday night's kegger and an older woman in a massive puffy jacket who keeps sighing when people inevitably bump into her, I accept that this is life and yes it's sometimes irritating and inconvenient, boring and mediocre. There's no real alternative so you might as well just go with it.
That's what I imagine someone more mature than me--who doesn't expect life to be a thrill-a-minute-- might say.