“Why are you cast down, O my soul?” is one of the plaintive cries of the psalmist that I suspect many of us have empathized with at least once or twice in this life. I cannot speak for everyone, I am only truly intimate with my own experience, still, I have noticed in our culture—so full of distractions—that “missing the moment” or “failing to be present despite being physically present” or “not being mindful” are ideas that are creating a barrage of regret, a lamentation I would like to dodge if I can.
For example, some folks are now looking back at the summer that was and wondering where it went. Some are watching their kids take off to university and marvel that what once looked eternal has proven short after all. Some got so caught up in wedding preparations they barely recall promising those life altering vows at the altar. Some have lost a loved one and cry at how few “good” memories they retain with clarity though they lived happy lives together. Regrets all around.
I am writing about our ability to live life and miss it at the same time. Like the driver of a familiar route who gets to the driveway and cannot recall a single element of the drive home, except instead of a dreaded-drive-worthy-of-forgetting we are talking about lives, and often the best moments in them.
I know that I am often distracted because I am thinking about what is next in my day, or what else “needs” to get done. In a hurry up culture where “busy” is a badge it can appear that to the runner goes the glory or to the speedy goes the day; but in truth to the sitter goes the satisfaction and to the slow goes the victory. For the sitter and the slow do not miss the moment they are in.
The practices I have found most useful in this are meditation (which I write about pretty often) and gratitude. The gratitude practice I want to focus on is one I got from a book (I think) and which I was reminded of recently during a spiritual talk with friends.
Every day, for at lest 30 days, a couple of times a year:
Collect (write down preferably by hand in a notebook you enjoy writing in) three aspects of your day that you are grateful for.
There are rules:
1- As aspect must be specific* instead of thanks for you child, we might be grateful for how our child handled a certain moment in their day that we witnessed, like if they treated someone weaker than them with gentleness, instead of thankful for the food we ate today maybe we could be thankful for the growers, transporters and cookers of it. The more specific, the more meaningful.
2- An aspect may only be used once a month* you can only be thankful for your spouse bringing you coffee once, (though you are thankful if it ever happens) or you can be grateful for a sunset once a month even if you make a habit of seeing it and soaking it in. We are looking to expand our horizons of gratitude and repetition is not as helpful as we would like it to be.
For my part I have noticed that when I am engaged in such a month I experience a lot more of my day because I am always on the look out for what will make the list. I become more focused on the good and less on the aggravating (here’s looking at you OC Transpo). It is astounding how much I have to be grateful for when I slow down and pay attention. I bet you do too.
In the end it leads to a less distracted life with far less days ending with a cast down soul and many more with a spirit of thanksgiving, and who doesn’t want that?