Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Rabbits and Being Present

In the rush-rush of daily living, I find it very easy to get completely absorbed in the minutia of planning for the next meeting or fretting about something unsaid in the last phone call. I often find that I’m ping-ponging back and forth between the past (things that have happened) and the future (getting ready or anticipating what will happen) while completely missing the present.
While in Orange County, California, several years ago, I tried to focus more on the moment. As I walked both mornings, I concentrated on being there rather than planning things for the day or regurgitating what had already transpired. And what did I discover? Rabbits. In the neighborhood behind the hotel, I spotted two rabbits hopping across the street. They came to rest to nibble the grass of a well-groomed lawn. One black rabbit and a gray one. As the superstition goes, don’t let a black rabbit cross your path because you might pay attention. A block later I spotted another four rabbits, sitting in a yard. I came to a nursery and found over thirty rabbits of various sizes, shapes and colors luxuriating on a well-nibbled lawn. The next street had half-a-dozen dog kennels, right there in the middle of a residential area. I noticed crows sitting on power lines, felt a gentle breeze ripple across my bare arms, smelled the aroma of bacon being cooked, heard the chirping of birds amidst the periodic barking of dogs from the kennels. It was exhilarating to be present on my walk. So much to see, hear, feel, smell. How unusual. Rather than being consumed in the thoughts of yesterday or tomorrow, it was a joy to be there in the moment. Instead of being locked into recordings playing in my head about “What I should be doing,” or “What if?” or “I forgot to do. . .” I was paying attention to what was going on around me. My feet were moving, I was breathing deeply and I was alive. No big exciting event, no epiphany, just the calm realization that it was good to be there, being me at that moment in time.The typical problem is that I get wrapped up in the busy-i-ness of daily activities and am not aware of what goes on around me. I experienced this over thirty years ago when we lived in Southern California. I was driving along the freeway one winter morning and felt strange. Something was different. Then I realized I could see the mountains! Mount Wilson with a cap of snow appeared in the distance. It was one of those rare clear days, and I could see over the whole Los Angeles basin. At first I was disoriented. I had become conditioned to the tunnel vision of not being able to see beyond the usual layer of smog. I was awed by the visibility of this unusually clear day. This pattern is repeated over and over again. Our field of vision is narrowed to the point that we don’t see what is going on around us, don’t feel the presence of others, don’t venture out of our cocoons. Open your eyes, ears and other senses to the possibilities of the moment. And you’ll see the rabbits.

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