Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Attentive and Present

My father, mother, daughter, and I were sitting in the room together. The little one year old was singing a song for her grandparents. Grandmother was enraptured but grandfather, my dad, had something else on his mind. It was apparent in his demeanor. Though present he was someplace else. He stood up and walked out of the house.

This will forever be the one scene where I find the clearest example of not being present. Though Dad was physically there, he was really in another place.

I too am constantly challenged to be "present." I've immersed myself in the wisdom literature that advocates this "presence." A favorite read was Eckart Tolle's "The Power of Now," and I've just finished listening to a morning meditation that tried to keep me in the "present." I succeeded 70% of the time. The other 30% was spent chasing my mind from the reverse and forward.

It turns out we can lack presence in a multitude of life places. My sister and mother recently identified another lack of presence--in me. It all began four years ago in a tiny pop-up shop on an east side street off Central Park, New York City. At the time, I didn't know it was a pop-up shop. Pop-ups are just what they imply. Halloween is the most prolific time for pop-ups. The one in NY was filled with fabulous, unique clothes from Paris. The man who ran the store told us he'd been there after the great fashion shows and he'd picked up the samples he was now selling. Two years later, when I returned to NY with my sisters and Mom, I had to search for that amazing shop.

I remembered approximately, its location, but it wasn't there; we couldn't find it. Yet, I was determined. It was December, and we'd hit some of the worst weather. The umbrellas in our hands were crushed by the wind, and we were left to fight the rain on our own. The wind beat the rain at an angle, and we ended up rushing back to the hotel to take off our wet clothes and live in our pajamas for the rest of the day--or until the rain stopped. On our last morning in the city, I got up early to take a run and to look for the elusive shop.

Fast forward to February 2016. Sister, Mom and I are staying in Santa Monica. I've been dying to get back to the LA coast because I need to go to Venice Beach. About five years ago, I bought the best hat--it became my favorite hat and it disappeared. Every winter day before I step outside, I think of that hat. I'm sure the little shops along the shore will still be selling that hat.  On our last morning, I take a long walk to Venice Beach, and I stop in every hat store. It can't be found. Disappointed, I return to the company of Mom and sister.

"We have a new challenge for you," I am told.


"You need to start shopping in the present."

I laugh, because truer words have never been spoken.

"The present moment is filled with joy and happiness-if you are attentive, you will see it." Thich Nhat Hanh