I was really slow on the uptake, but it only occurred to me yesterday that this New Year was 1.1.11.  I’m not into numerology, but that just seems like a message hitting you between the eyes–a message similar to the old 60s poster:  Today is the first day of the rest of your life!

So, it seems like a good time to break my “blogger’s block” and get back in the saddle of posting.  I needed a word fast, as evidenced in some of my previous posts, and now that I’ve granted that to myself, I can proceed.

1.2.11 seems as good a time to post as 1.1.11.  It tells me, “come on!  You’re not going to miss this opportunity to live in this day as clearly and purposefully as a year that starts out 1.1.11, are you?”

‘Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day.”  Macbeth hit the nail on the head with that one.  Being in my sixth decade and approaching my seventh, I can bear witness to how time tends to roll downhill gathering speed.

To quell the avalanche of time, I have only one resolution:  To practice mindfulness as diligently as I can. Think about any resolution you’ve ever made, and ask yourself, if you had simply been mindful, could you have achieved it?  Have you ever tried to start a diet on New Year’s?  If you practice mindfulness when you choose your food, you can do it.  Have you ever tried to get your finances in order?  If you practice mindfulness as you make spending choices, you can do it.  Have you ever vowed to reconnect with loved ones?  If you practice mindfulness and recognize how important your connections are, you will put down the busy work and make some calls or write some emails.

My favorite play of all time, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, is Our Town, because of the last scene where Emily dies very young but is given the chance to pick a day to return to.  What she learns in that heart-rending visit is that everyone, herself, her father, her mother, were sleepwalking through the time of their lives.   In anquish, she simply cannot bear witness to this, so she asks the Stage Manager to take her back to her grave:

I can’t. I can’t go on. It goes so fast. We don’t have time to look at one another…I didn’t realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed. Take me back – up the hill – to my grave. But first: Wait! One more look. Good-by, Good-by, world. Good-by, Grover’s Corners…Mama and Papa. Good-by to clocks ticking…and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths…and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you. (III.45-9)

And then she asks the question:  “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it– every, every minute?”

The Stage Manager replies, “Saints and poets, they do some.”

Well, I’m not a poet, and I’m definitely not a saint, but I do want to realize life.  Today, 1.2.11, I vow to look at the cup as I pour my morning coffee.  I vow to concentrate on the bites I put in my mouth.  When my husband talks to me, I vow to listen with my heart.

Someone shared this with me today:  Yesterday is History, Tomorrow a Mystery, Today is a Gift, Thats why it’s called the Present.  A good daily reminder.

By the way, here is a picture of the day that I witnessed about an hour ago, looking at the creek behind my house.

Happy New Minute.

Letting Go of Distractions, Worries and Projection: What Thich Nhat Hanh and Thornton Wilder Have in Common

Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh

I changed my calendar yesterday from February to March. That makes me almost two weeks late. The irony was that my calendar is a Thich Nhat Hanh calendar. This Zen Buddhist monk is a master of mindfulness, and I can’t think of anything more UNmindful than letting almost two weeks escape me without realizing it.

There is a foolproof way to let all your worries go—and at the same time become alive to the beauty and wonder around you—and that is to practice mindfulness. Thich Nhat Hanh writes extensively about it and how to practice it in many of his books, but his seminal work on this topic is Miracle of Mindfulness.

Read this book if you are interested in:

  • Learning how to begin a practice in living mindfully
  • Learning exercises in mindfulness
  • Learning basic breathing techniques
  • Reading stories and little parables, such as a wonderful one by Tolstoy, that enlighten us as to why we should be mindful of every moment

One of my favorite quotes:

Mindfulness is the miracle by which we master and restore ourselves. Consider, for example: a magician who cuts his body into many parts and places each part in a different region—hands in the south, arms in the east, legs in the north, and then by some miraculous power reassembles whole every part of his body. Mindfulness is like that—it is the miracle which can call back in a flash our dispersed mind and restore it to wholeness so that we can live each moment of our life.  Miracle of Mindfulness, p.14

Now, what do Thich Nhat Hanh and Thornton Wilder have in common?

Thornton Wilder

Thornton Wilder

This Thich Nhat Hanh/Thornton Wilder connection came to me when I saw that there is a new production of Our Town, the classic play by Wilder, in Manhattan. From what I’ve read, it is a must-see. Then again, this is my favorite play. Nevertheless, it got a great review from The New York Times, and from what I read, its approach is very relevant and true to the play’s meaning, and so I plan to see it.

Our Town is set in Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire in the 1930s, and it tracks the lives of two families, in particular two of the children, through the major milestones of a person’s young life—adolescence, dating, marriage, and ultimately, death. Emily, one of those children, dies in childbirth but is granted permission to pick one day in her past to return to. She picks her 16th birthday, but as she moves through the motions of that day it becomes stunningly clear to her all that she had taken for granted. She realizes that when she was alive, she had been sleepwalking; now that she was dead she was truly alive–knowing that she had squandered her only chance to simply notice….. everything. And everything now seems very much worth noticing. When her day expires, with despair and sadness she bids farewell to her short life in a monologue that is probably one of the most poignant that I’ve ever seen.  I would quote it, but don’t want to be a spoiler, especially since it really must be viewed in context.

To me, I have always thought that Our Town makes tragic heroes out of most of us, because we are all just growing up and getting through and growing old in a settings very much like the play’s. Whether we live in a small town or large town or whether our community is provincial or metropolitan, or we are living in the 1940s, or a new millennium most of us share with Emily a tendency to charge ahead in our lives blind to the very essence of the stuff that our lives are made of, which is, simply, one moment at a time.

So, right now, be mindful. Stop for 60 seconds to just sit and take everything in. Or, you can continue doing what you’re doing, but do it completely aware of your actions and your thoughts as they occur. Slow down. Pay attention. Appreciate. If you can do that, congratulations. You have just participated fully in one minute of your life.