There are moments, few and far between, when time stops. Each texture, each breath, each sound resonates though your senses and nothing seems to exist accept what is in your immediate experience. And then you become aware of how blissful it is to be in the present. You become attached through your conscientiousness of the moment. You label it good thus limiting whatever is different bad, setting yourself up for disappointment. When the moment ends, you morn a loss instead of being at peace with having had an experience. Accepting pleasure and moving into the next moment without judgment isn’t a skill that has flowed readily in my life. Although, during a recent retreat, I had a chance to see how far I had come in my quest to live in the present.
The retreat included a hike up Tumalo Butte in an early fall snow, a paddle at Hosmer on an unseasonably warm October day, and an overnight in Sun River. After spending a good portion of the last few months in California, catching up with work upon my return, finding a new place to live and rediscovering the world of bike commuting, it was nice to reaquatint myself with classic Central Oregon outings. During these moments I experienced a kind of connectedness I haven’t felt since I moved back from Oz, maybe I hadn’t felt in many years even before the Great Australian Adventure. Letting the grace that accompanies acceptance touch each outing totally changed my perception of my surroundings.
Let me give you an example. In the past, when on an adventure, I have a tendency to focus on what could be better about every moment, every place, something some one said, the way the whether was, etc. There was always a looming modification to better suit. But in the last few years I noticed something about this habit. Even when I got my way exactly, even when the person said what I wanted, even when the whether was just so, I still wasn’t having awe inspiring moments, my happiness was still quite surficial and superficial. I would just start focusing on the next thing I wanted to be my way. So, after making this admission to myself, I did the only thing I could do, I worked on it. And I have been working on it for years, I guess that is why I am so pleased by the results form my retreat.
On the last morning of the retreat, in Sun River, I ventured out the back door of the condo, into the crisp air with Mic. Evan as the door shut behind us, stepping into the elements, like a roller coaster snapping into alignment with the track, my mind focused on my present surroundings. Like the cold to my clothes, presence seeped through the seems in my mind. I could imagine the stitches of each piece of clothing and a chill moving through them layer by layer. First my vest most susceptible to this osmosis for its previous were and tare and then my synthetic insulator, nearly new, though thin. The wool hoody I had worn all through Australia like an 8th layer of skin and finally easiest of all to infiltrate, my cotton T shirt. Instead of resisting the penetrating temperature, I breathed it in and appreciated the moment, regardless of brevity.
Along the river bank I tramped over fallen snags, frosted grassy knolls, saturated mud pits, and dusty gravel trail. Mic turned back every 100 feet or so to see why I was walking so slow. He didn’t share my enthusiasm to decode the intricate design of each grain of sediment, each needle of pine, each sliver of light flashing through the trees. At one point I became aware of my whole hearted enjoyment of the moment. It had been a good walk, Mic had had his fill. We could chose to turn back, avoid further investment in good things that were sure to come to an end, or continue the walk irregardless. Make decisions based on an uncertain future or enjoy the pleasure while it was available… I continued the walk.
When I eventually arrived back at the condo, it was time to leave. Time to head back to Bend and re-enlist in reality: work, moving, groceries, the grind. Bidding the last shards of summer adu through the car window, I embraced the winter. I recalled the cold seeping through my cloths on my walk. I recalled what it felt like to surrender and now I new what it felt like to survive surrender. Stepping into the next moment, I finally realized how to accept the pleasures of each experience unencumbered by the challenges of the past or the potential mishaps of the future.