Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Life Is Short...How Would You Spend This Time?

(with Journal/Discussion prompts at the end of the post)


We get a box of vegetables and fruit delivered from an organic farm periodically. We never know what's going to be in the box, so it's always fun to open it up and see. Recently, as I washed some of this wonderful produce, enjoying the experience as usual, an unpleasant memory crowded in. It was a memory of the intentional and unintentional cruelty of others from the not-so-distant past. This took me out of the present joy of waking up every day with the most beautiful person in the world, of preparing for us a healthful meal, of taking in the colors and feeling the textures of the work that was before me. Perhaps this has happened to you too.

Thankfully, a sudden memory of my precious grandmother’s words brought me back to the present moment, “Only God knows the day, and the hour, and the minute when life as we know it could change or end. We have to cherish every moment.” Nellie was only fifty-six when she died. We were very close and I truly adored her, so I’ve always taken her words to heart. Similarly, Pema Chodron quotes her own teachers in a few of her books. I’ll paraphrase here: “Life is short. The end is uncertain. How would you spend this time?”

Thus, I was transported back to the present happiness in my life. I was pleasantly struck (upside the head) by Nellie's and Pema's words. As I heeded their message, and focused on my task, I felt grateful for the meditative aspects of doing something I’ve done a thousand times, like washing fruit and vegetables while feeling the refreshing caress of water pouring softly over my skin.

I focused with gratitude on my ability to use my hands as I chopped the various fruits and vegetables I chose. I enjoyed the bouquet of their colors and fresh fragrances, adding tofu, apple juice, and frozen organic berries, since they’re out of season now. I listened to the happy sound of my noisy blender, churning up the whole mixture, then to the dribble and splash as I poured out our drinks into tall glasses. I experienced the pleasure and satisfaction of handing a glass of nurturing healthfulness to my beloved, who greeted it with such joy and appreciation. At last, I tasted the sweet delicious coolness…. To think, I could have missed all that.

During my journaling time or on my weekend retreat, I can focus with compassion on the people who hurt me. Haven’t I failed to be kind at times? Haven’t I done or said things I wish I hadn’t? And I can work on my reactions to the things they did or failed to do. There’s a difference between not putting up with behaviors that are unkind or harmful, and lashing back, or holding on to what hurts from the past. I can work on that too.

For today, in present moments, it was good and important to withstand the way the memory took hold, not falling into a cycle of going over and over what they said, what I said, what I could have said, really telling them off in my mind…. It was healthful to stay in the “now,” to experience the joy in my life, even right in my hands as I performed a routine morning ritual. It was a far grander thing to honor the grace of the present moment.

Today is “Creativity Tuesday” here at the blog. Did you think I forgot? I’ve chosen to share all this from a creative healthful perspective, to use it as one of those teachable moments, even to share with you pictures of the veggies and fruit that arrive in our deliveries from the organic farm, expressions of creativity in nature and all around us. Perhaps you'll do similarly when you get a minute to consider one or more of the following suggestions.

For your journal/discussion:

Think about a time when the past choked off something good you were about to enjoy. Rewrite the scenario with a more fulfilling ending?

Get on with living: Write a letter or poem to a loved one from your past, telling them something you forgot to say, or telling them you love them, or telling them goodbye.

Write a description or poem about creativity in nature as you experienced it recently or in the past.

Share about a routine task, even a seemingly mundane one, that allows you the mental freedom to meditate or relax.

And never underestimate the power of a loyal pup to ease the pain of the past. As my friend Julie says, “Life is short…hug your dog.”