Recently I had the opportunity to hear the Dalai Lama speak in Chicago on bridging the gap among various religious faiths in seeking peace and unity in our world. It was a wonderful experience to be in the presence of a holy man committed to mindfulness for the sake of others. Mindfulness has been the lesson I continue to focus on these days. I am focused on recognizing the grace of the moment and being mindful of it. I am learning to not focus on the past, from which I can learn but cannot change. I am learning to not focus on the future, for which I can plan for but cannot guarantee. My focus is on the moment now, where I am now, what I can do now. I believe if I focus on now that is the doorway to understanding the past and moving into the future. But more importantly, it keeps me focus on now, the place where I am.
I left the center where the talk was held just as it was ending to get to the train before the entire crowd headed that way. As I waited on the platform, I was conscious of the simple fact that I was waiting for a train. The train would come when it came. I would get on the train when I did. As I was standing there waiting with others, a car lost control on the interstate directly across from the platform. It was a potentially serious incident that could have resulted in injury, but fortunately did not. But all of us on the platform were caught up in the moment of the incident. It played in front of us as if on a large movie screen. You could not have helped but notice. And I think I felt what most did…the surprise, the fear, the relief that ensued. And when the driver gained control and another driver stopped to enable the now safe car to regain its place on the highway, the moment passed. And we were all on the platform waiting on the train.
I began to collect my thoughts again. I was grateful no one was hurt in a potential accident, as I heard in others’ comments. And then I regained my focus. The train would eventually come and I would get on it. However, what I began to notice – that I realize in moving to Chicago is quite common – is many people waiting were looking down the track to see if the train was coming. It happened repeatedly. You could tell for some it happened impatiently. And I remembered that I could not change when the train would come, I could only wait for it. There was no real need to look for it. I trusted it would come. My looking down the track would not change its arrival even if it gave me awareness of how close it may be. And I realized in that moment, it is hard in our own culture to be mindful sometimes. We are used to looking ahead, or looking behind, but many times do not focus on the moment now. If the moment is spectacular, as in a potential car accident right before our eyes, we may shift our focus immediately to the now and even forget anything else that may be on our minds. But when the moment is not spectacular, it is sometimes difficult to learn to focus on it because it is the moment now. This is mindfulness, when we recognize that every moment now is spectacular in itself and worthy of our focus. And in doing so it will bring us to the next moment.
May you and I continue to learn to be mindful of the moments before us!