A very happy girl stands in a flower field of City Park in New Orleans, laughing from the deep belly, (making fun of me as I recall). She is all in, totally present in the moment, not missing a bit of it, and cherishing what she is experiencing. Because she is discovering the wonder of the moment she does not need to regret missing it, or missing a day, or a week, or a life. A great tragedy happens when we are missing our moments, or lives. And a great wonder happens when we are actually showing up to discover whatever unfolds.
Last night I saw a romantic movie called: “About Time.” It seems silly at first as a teenage boy discovers he can go back in time to replay a moment he has “messed up” with some embarrassing thing he said or did. But as his life unfolds into young adulthood the issues he faces become more serious. Sometimes he goes back to replay a moment because he missed the importance of it the first time around and he wants to go back and cherish it.
Because I am a bit sappy, or human, I can cry a little in such movies. (Last week it was the animated movie “Inside Out”). I cry when my humanity is touched by the movie’s theme. By the end of the movie Tim, the main character, learns that if he really stays present in his moments, treasuring time with family and friends, he doesn’t need to go back in time to replay them. He drinks in human experience the first time. In fact, this is really the movie’s message, intended for those of us who do not get to travel back in time.
For us non-time travelers, missing moments means they are lost forever. We never get another chance. And the point hit home with me. I believe it is part of what started shifting in my personal and professional life after Hurricane Katrina turned us all upside down. I began to realize I was moving way too fast, like 90 miles an hour too fast. I didn’t even know how much I was missing back then. I was just scrambling to see as many people as possible in both my counseling practice and my pastoral care work. And the sad part is that I was moving so fast that I was probably missing the fullness of most of those moments, and not fully seeing the very people I was connecting with.
Discovering moments requires a pace closer to a mile an hour. Engaging people completely demands complete presence, and that just can’t happen with our hand on the door handle as we finish conversations. The state of hurry is translated with two Chinese characters which mean “heart killing.” And when I hurry I believe I do just that with my own heart-center and with my relationships.
When I see the joy present in the girl from the photo, who happens to be my wife, I see a spiritual teacher before me. In moments of such delight she is saying, without words, “See William, this is how to live.” She is inviting me to remember we can’t get our moments or our days back. She is saying, “They are too precious to waste. Don’t miss them.” She is showing me how to replace “hurry” with laughing. You just can’t enjoy a good laugh when you are in a hurry. One excludes the other.
I really regret the moments when I have been with my grandson and suddenly realized it is time to be somewhere else. I shift into that hurry mode. He naturally resists. Something in us doesn’t want to be pushed, rushed, scurried along. The more he resists the more frustrated I can get. I get caught up in a false pressure that we have to be somewhere else on time, and so I completely forget the wonder of treasuring the moment with him. When I do that I sometimes sense what is happening, but once I am falling into hurry mode it is almost impossible to pull back. It is like hurry mode has a mind of its own and it starts driving me. I am literally going out of my heart-mind and becoming lost in anxious-mind. And I hate when that happens. The cost is great.
So something is continuing to shift in me still, even at the Katrina-10 anniversary. Someone in me is becoming determined to be more like Carol, and Sam, and less like hurry-mode William. And yet I just can’t bring about my own transformation. So this evening I turn in prayer to a Power Greater than me. I set my intention to become willing to change forms. I say to Carol and Sam, my teachers, to myself, and to the One who is using them to help me discover my moments: May I let go of rushing and hurry, to touch my moments as fully as possible, and really be with the people in my life as completely as possible. May I know You, the One who is present ever and always, as much as I can. Amen.
For more stories like this see Monks in the World; Seeking God in a Frantic Culture.