Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Being Mindful of the Journey


WFS Statement 6 – Life can be ordinary, or life can be great

I was driving home this morning after dropping my grandson off at school.  It is a nice, not quite crisp Florida day and I was in no particular hurry to get back to the house.  As I approached the spot on our main thoroughfare where the speed limit increases from 35 to 45, I noticed a new convertible sportscar approaching behind me.  In the lane next to it was a blue Camaro.  They seemed to be going faster than the cars around them, but I paid little mind.

A few moments later, the white car (a Porsche Boxster) flew past me with the blue car close behind.  I glanced down at my speedometer; I was doing almost 55.  This meant that the two cars passing me were probably doing close to 70.  This, on a crowded four-lane city boulevard.  I slowed down, because I don't like going more than five miles over the speed limit, and watched them smoke off down the road, only to come up behind them a couple of minutes later at the next stop light.

They were probably lucky that the light had turned, because sitting in the lot on the other side of the cross road were two police officers with their radar guns out.  A green light would have likely meant a nice three figure fine to go with the drivers' Starbucks mochafrappalattes.  I was turning, and went on about my business as the two sportsters continued forward at a slightly more sedate pace.

I relate this story because, to me, it highlights the different attitudes we can take in our daily lives.  The woman in the Porsche wasn't wearing a business suit, so I doubt she was headed to work.  Even so, she didn't have the excited look of someone enjoying their fancy fast car on a beautiful morning.  Instead, she looked grim, driven, going fast because she didn't know another way.  On the other hand, I was looking at the pale blue sky, the slight changing of the leaves that indicates fall around here, and thinking about how great the day could be.  When I saw that I was going too fast, I slowed down.  I'm not sure that woman knew how to slow down.

We are often counseled to be mindful in our daily lives.  What does that mean?  To me, it means opening yourself to an awareness of the (not-so) mundane details that surround us at every moment.  It means acting purposefully even in moments without purpose.  This might be a confusing concept, so I will explain further.  Consider a walk along a street.  There is no particular purpose to it - other than perhaps to get to the store, it is just a walk.  You can go along maintaining an awareness only of the cars on the road, or you can be purposeful.  You can expand your awareness to include all that comes into view.  You can be mindful of everything that surrounds you.

By allowing yourself to see more than the sidewalk in front of you and the cars beside you, you will now also notice the little patch of yellow flowers sprouting on the side of the concrete, clinging stubbornly to life in a hostile environment.  You will hear the birds calling to one another, perhaps smell someone's charcoal grill being fired up for a steak dinner.  You will breathe in all of life instead of merely inhaling and exhaling air.  You will be able to revel in the fact that you are alive.

Or, you can put on your blinders and walk to the store as quickly as possible.  You can focus solely on your task, forgetting that the moments which comprise the journey have as much value, perhaps even more.  Not only will you miss the beautifully restored car that drives by, the cute puppy playing in its yard with an excited child, the scent of baking bread from the store on the corner.  You will miss the self-discovery that may come from considering your place in this vignette.  At the least, you will miss a fond memory of a similar car from your teen years, a smile at the simple happiness of boy and dog, and all the pleasant emotions that come from smelling fresh baked bread.

I challenge you to look at your speedometer.  Are you going too fast?  Slow down.  Expand your awareness today and look for the little treasures that life offers all around you.  Examine them, savor them.  Be mindful of your journey.  Life can be ordinary, or life can be great.  Embrace the greatness that surrounds you.

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