I’m learning how to live in the moment. To this time, I never had the will to admit that I needed to work on this aspect of my life; now that I have the will, the challenge is in acquiring the skill of what is referred to spiritually as “mindfulness.” It is a concept often associated with eastern religions, and, having spent a significant amount of time in the orient, I realize that mindfulness is a very appealing aspect of Asian culture. Such focus, however, is not just spiritual; awareness of savoring the moment is really the key for everything from addiction recovery to academic success.
I think my difficulty with this might partially be cultural. I recently viewed a documentary on Netflix called “When Jews were Funny,” where one of the comics mentioned that Jews “never live in the present.” He claimed that we are either lamenting the past, or nervously awaiting the future. Check out the Yiddish term “shpilkis,” which means “nervous energy without purpose;” it is a term that exists precisely to describe his phenomenon. We tend to gloss over The Now.
I think this is what causes some of us to overdo (I better eat/buy/do this now, because who knows what is lurking in the future), causes some of us to be overprotective (what if this or that happens?) and causes some of us to be fearful of commitment (the future may hold something brighter). Religion-wise, Judaism seems to see mindfulness in slightly different ways than Buddhism or Christianity might, but one example may be found in the Hebrew biblical word, “hineini,” which means “I am here,” for when biblical characters addressed G-d. But in any case, we are reminded to be ready to serve, be present, and be in the moment.
The Jewish tendency to dwell on the past comes from having been persecuted, attacked and expelled from countless civilizations and societies. We worry that history will repeat itself, as it inevitably does. This makes it difficult to be at ease with how things are. We are reflective, and we question our how’s and why’s. Most immigrants are thankful to be in America, where freedom is should be the norm. Still, post-revolution France was a relatively tolerant society too, for a while, until the Dreyfus ordeal and WWII arrived, not to mention the current rise of anti-Semitism that drives record numbers of French Jews to the safer haven of Israel. Yes, in THIS day and age.
I can cite at least three situations in my life when I DO feel 100% in the moment. One is when I am spending time with my family, two is when I am contra dancing, and three is when I am at work.
I have a very small family. My parents are both gone, and I’ve only ever had one sister. When what we refer to as “family” gets together, there are maximum eight people. I don’t even have to put extenders on my dining room table for all of us to be able to eat together. We live close by, but, day-to-day, we forget to do things together here in town. What we do undertake, twice a year minimum, are little trips out of town, where we rent a place in a beautiful spot, and we cook and spend time doing what have now become our traditional activities. With location, timing and events set, whisked away from the daily grind of life, we are able to focus on being in the moment with each other, and creating family memories.
My next in-the-moment solace is when I am Contra dancing. As I posted on Facebook recently, “Contra is my Mantra.” The nature of contra dancing is that you are briefly taught an easy-to-learn dance pattern. You are given the instruction orally, and a chance to, as we say, “walk it through” kinesthetically. The music then ensues, and that pattern is set to a beat and motion. You do this with a partner, however, you and your mate interact with up to thirty other partners, moving down a line. In the space of a ten minute, live jam session of a song, you connect with a multitude of dancers, often eye-to-eye, at close physical range (in each other’s arms), and it is the essence of focus, a thoroughly emotional exchange. It is also said to be a way to mitigate a newcomer’s dizziness from the spin of the dance. It IS all about the music, the dance, the exercise benefits, and the intellectual stimulation of memorizing the patterns, but it is more about the few moments of physical and emotional connection with another person. It is intensely satisfying, utterly joyful, and a classic manifestation of mindfulness. One may question, what if you don’t actually like one of the people you pass in your progression through the line? The answer is very zen itself: life is fleeting, nothing last forever, like a cherry blossom in full bloom.
Finally, when I’m at work, I’m always 100% focused. I’m known for being enthusiastic. I always feel energized by my responsibilities, and love going the extra mile, as we called it in the roaring ’80’s. I am electrically charged when making person-to-person contact, creating something new, or even doing mundane work, like data input or filling out forms. One of the first jobs I ever had was sales clerk at Hermes, a Beverly Hills boutique. I was taught from those earliest moments that every little act counts: from memorizing the names of each bag style, to every scarf motif. There was a way to approach customers, to speak to people, and to wrap merchandise in the inimitable orange boxes with brown ribbons.
I’m always present, in the moment, when I write, and there’s no way to read without being in the moment. So, if you are reading this now; you are right in the moment with me.