Friday, January 18, 2008

Complicated Lives

Even the simplest of us have complicated lives, especially if you are a parent with children. Our days are full of expectations, responsibilities, obligations, and duties. We get out of bed, often still weary, and we get ourselves, and our families ready for work, school, or the daycare. We fight the morning traffic and try to reach all of our destinations on schedule. Most work is demanding and many I know are genuinely stressed out by its expectations. We leave our offices weary and brain dead as we make our way back to our homes where the other demands of daily living and family life wait for us. There are practices or games to attend, or homework to do, not to mention the cookies or cake you must bake for your church, or the committee meeting you must attend. In today's world there is also at times the burden of a job that requires you to work or to be on call even at home. If you are lucky, you may get some time to relax or to sneak in six hours of sleep before the next day begins. I think this is a fair representation of modern life for many people. In the midst of all these demands and activities, how does one live in a meaningful way? My wife has one solution that she always suggests to me. She says, "Michael, just say no"! This can help if you are an easy mark for volunteering for everything. You can't say no, however, to everything but most of us need to learn to say no more often. Many of the demands of our life, however, cannot be refused. How does one stay centered in the midst of activity that is necessary and cannot be avoided? I once read of a man who had several businesses and many children. He always seemed present to the demand of the moment or each child individually. One of his children said, "Dad, how do you do it"? The dad responded, "Wherever I am, I am". What he is doing is practicing mindfulness. Zen and mindfulness are basically the same thing. It's being where you are and doing what you are doing. It's having your mind and body in the same place at the same time. It's much harder than it sounds. I try to do it all the time but when I am at work, or involved in something that doesn't interest me, my mind is sometimes in the Bahamas sitting on the beach with a bucket of ice cold Corona beers. When this happens I want my body to go be with my mind. Most of the time, however, I am trying to unite my mind with where my body is. The reality is that where your body is now, that is your life, and you need to be present in your own life. If you are fully present to the moment, then the moment can be present to you. When this happens, the magic of the moment can be revealed and what seems ordinary can become extraordinary. I know some of you are probably thinking, "Yeah, right, what are you smoking"? Well, I'm not smoking anything. I believe every moment of life has the potential for meaning and the extraordinary. It doesn't happen every moment but it can surprise you at any time. When it happens, I want to be there.

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