“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it”.(Thích Nhất Hạnh)
Just over a week ago I attended a family wedding oceans away from home. Just one day after an almost 24 hour flight, I managed to get my children, and myself ready for yet another journey to a small village outside of the city for wedding celebrations. Initially the ride was suppose to last two hours, but after being trapped in traffic for almost three long hours, the destination was still afar.
With three jet lagged, hungry, exhausted, and grumbling children I sat bunched up in the back seat counting each minute. Cars were not moving, the heat unbearable, and the children were simply miserable. We were stuck in the middle of nowhere.
As I sat there with absolutely no control over the situation. I almost broke down into a well of tears. How can this happen to me? Why is this happening to me? Just when I thought I couldn’t get any more exhausted, there was still room for more!
I wanted to scream. After all I was all ready to attend a wedding but instead, I was stuck oceans away from home, sitting inside an overheated car, with three children, and nothing to do but wait.
Just then, I caught a glimpse of three little souls, all looking at me for cues on how to react to this situation. I thought about my next move, how it will either rev them up into a tearful breakdown, or allow them to accept, surrender, and be at peace with the moment.
I read a lot, and at times like this, it pays off. One of my greatest loves is learning about the importance of accepting what is, and the divine decree. I can’t stress enough that, when we submit to our present, and stop living in the past or anticipate the future, we find true peace.
I gently held my children, forced myself to look into their eyes, took a deep breath, and allowed the calm settle over every inch of my skin. I decided to accept the delay rather than question it. You can call it a type of meditation if you will. And almost instantly, they too responded with ease.
It felt incredible. I felt my heart beat slow down, my head stopped spinning, and my limbs relaxed. In that moment I felt in control, alive and present again. I was submitting to the divine decree.
I sat stuck to my seat, and realized a funny truth. I’m always backed up for time, searching for minutes in my day to reach deadlines, get some work done, either for myself, or for my family. There is not a day that goes by when I do not beg an hour just to myself. And now, when I was gifted 4 hours, I was about to lose my mind. Yes, I’m tired,and irritated, but in this present moment, I have nothing to do, nowhere to go, and more importantly no schedule to follow.
That dry hot day, being stuck in traffic altered my thinking in an insightful way. I was forced to give in to the natural order of things, and let go my neurotic need to organize my day, and follow my schedule.
I think we’ve become so preoccupied with time that empty moments are seen as a negative thing. The four hours I was given were moments for myself, to stop, and watch the world as it flows in its natural state, ordained by the Almighty. In my day, I usually take out moments for mindful practice, but I realized sometimes these moments search for me instead. They ‘re little gifts disguised in the forms of traffic delays, postponed meetings, long line ups at the grocery store, and other unexpected waiting periods.
I’ve always encouraged people to take some time out of their day for meditation, or simple mindful practice. In whatever form works for them, through meditation, yoga, prayer, recitation, or simple pausing and breathing. On the days that I have failed to do so myself, guilt overtakes me, and I promise myself tomorrow, I will definitely spare some time. However, I now realize that those moments are all around me, but instead of submitting, and cultivating them I fill them up with feelings of uneasiness fueled by anxiousness, and or regret.
I invite you to join me in this new venture. If you’re able to take out a good chunk of time from your day, and connect with your present you’re blessed. If you’re like most of us, struggling to do so, let’s allow these empty moments to be filled with mindful practice.
Feel your breath in the car as you wait in traffic, close your eyes, and let your body relax as you wait to pick up your child from school, let every inch of skin on your body feel the cool of the water as you wash the dishes, press and release the tension in your finger tips as you wait for a meeting that’s running late.
For me on that day my children played a great role in how I chose to capture that moment. In an era that is technologically obsessed and wait time is obsolete, I hope these moments allow them take away one of life’s most important lessons.
The divine decree is the truth and unavoidable. The present moment is a gift. We can choose to accept, live in it and feel peace, or reject it, live away from it and feel uneasy.