I had a lovely afternoon today. Instead of doing anything, I sat inside and finished a lovely book (more about that in a later post). Then, when I was all done, I went outside.
This lovely book reminded me how important it is to be present in the moment, with myself and the world around me.
I hadn’t turned my compost bin all summer, so the first thing I did outside was pull finished compost out and push the unfinished compost down into the bin with water. There is something magical about pulling dark black, crumbly soil out of a bin of plant matter and knowing this beautiful soil came from something that ought to be thrown away. Pulling out this soil, watching it, smelling it, being present in the moment for this compost, was the best thing I had done so far all day.
Then I planted a new shrub, a flamingo willow, in my front yard, filled the area around it with this beautiful soil, and added some yellow potentilla groundcover. It looks really nice.
After I replaced the potting soil in my hanging basket and added new fall plants (a white aster and yellow and red pansies), I watered everything. And then the moment of returning from the calm place I had been.
I noticed the dog doo in my front garden bed, right under the front window. It had been there a couple days, unnoticed, and now fly-infested. While I know intellectually that the unpleasant is a part of the world, and to be present in the moment is to be present with the unpleasant, it is still a shock to suddenly encounter the unpleasant.
Jack Kornfield has written a book, After The Ecstasy, The Laundry, about encountering real life while practicing Zen Buddhism. Well, for me, it’s After Being Present In The Moment, The Dog Doo.
In the end, though, the unpleasantness doesn’t really diminish my experience of being present in the moment, and in fact, I am still present with myself as I write these words. That seems an odd construction, ‘I am still present with myself’, but when you consider that, truly, we are all merely candle flames flickering from one moment to the next and there is no ‘I’ that truly goes on from moment to moment, then it doesn’t seem so odd. At least to me.
(And if you have a different idea of what we are, and ultimate reality, please bear with me, sharing my own version of the truth with you.)