A keen vision of life means cherishing every moment
If a picture is worth a thousand words and this column is usually around 600, then you’ll need 400 words worth of imagination to get the full story.Imagine Lower Cataract Lake at sunset, a sea of orange and yellow, red splashed as if fallen from some heavenly pallet. The lake itself is placid, reflecting the panorama of color and doubling the drama of beauty before you.Our evening walk this past week served to remind us both of the immense splendor of this special time and the speed at which it travels by. I suspect fall is a favorite for many who find themselves, as I do, spending more than a little time reflecting on the transient quality of life in these awesomely permanent mountains. There are times, many times, when I want to seal a particular moment inside a mason jar and store it with a thousand others in a cellar pantry. I imagine bringing these cherished occasions back up to ground level whenever the need arises. Much like enjoying peaches in winter, preserved from the summer before.
But, truth to tell, the memories of these holy moments dim and what I had hoped to hold forever slips through my fingers like so much sand. Thich Nhat Hahn, the venerable Buddhist monk, tells of a conversation between the Buddha and a philosopher: “I have heard that Buddhism is a doctrine of enlightenment,” the philosopher said. “What is your method? What do you practice every day?” “We walk, we eat, we wash ourselves, we sit down?” the Buddha replied. “What is so special about that? Everyone walks, eats, washes, sits down?”
“Sir, when we walk, we are aware that we are walking; when we eat, we are aware that we are eating. When others walk, eat, wash or sit down, they are generally not aware of what they are doing.”Since I cannot seem to bottle up these beautiful experiences, I begin to recognize the importance of acute awareness or, as my Buddhist friends call it, of mindfulness. There is an art to this mindful behavior. I am told there are 90,000 “subtle gestures” of mindful practice. I have managed to integrate a few of them into my life. Quiet walks at Cataract, for instance. A monk once said, “Anything worth doing well is worth doing slowly.” I know I’ve shared that before, but that’s because I find it to be so deeply true. As I make the bed at home or prepare our sanctuary for worship, I try and remember the value of this simple insight. The moment becomes richer, the experience profound.
Under the tutelage of English heritage, I’ve spent countless afternoons waiting for water to boil, crockery to be placed, treats to be served. Tea time, for some, is an expected part of every afternoon. It serves as a tasty reminder to stop and savor not just food, but the good fortune that surrounds us daily. George Eliott, who wasn’t a George at all, of course, but a Mary Anne, wrote, “If we had a keen vision of all that is ordinary in human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow or the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which is the other side of silence.”I have no desire to die before my time, but fall evenings spent walking through forests of aspen, beside a mountain lake, offer glimpses of a “keen vision” that makes memories less important and creates mindful moments full of grace – and gratitude.Rich Mayfield writes a Saturday column. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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