One Slice at a Time

Living in the Gap is about my search for mindfulness (I realize this term is mindlessly overused), my struggle to live in the moment, and my evolving awareness of the irresistible present. I drag you along because I don’t like to do things on my own (there are a few obvious exceptions), besides it’s more fun to stumble around in the dark when I know you’re near, and can shed some light when needed. Thank god for our fellow lamp lighters. Thich Nhat Hanh from his book, The Miracle of Mindfulness, explains rather beautifully that we are either present to the moment or risk getting “sucked away into the future…incapable of actually living one minute of life.”  He uses the example of a tangerine.

“A tangerine has sections.  If you can eat just one section, you can probably eat the entire tangerine.  But if you can’t eat a single section, you cannot eat the tangerine.”

The general idea is to fully encounter all the “sections” of your life, one at a time, even the really difficult ones. “Eat it and be one with it. Tomorrow it will be no more.” He says, “During the moment one is consulting, resolving, and dealing with whatever arises, a calm heart and self-control are necessary…if we are not in control of ourselves but instead let our impatience or anger interfere, then our work is no longer of value.” This makes me laugh as I am reminded of last weeks foible at work. 

It was reaching a hundred degrees in my classroom, as the air-conditioner was out to lunch, I couldn’t get the projector to project my PowerPoint with any sound, and to make matters worse the image was upside down. I really wanted to toss the remote across the room, cry out in agony, and throw myself to the floor. I knew the more important task at hand was my students, who sat quietly fanning themselves, while their religion teacher managed through a rough spot. What else could I do? I took a deep breath, smiled at the remote clutched in my rigid hand, and took a minute to assess the condition of my students. They looked like wet dishrags drying on a rack of desks, listless, and detached. I sifted through the Rolodex of ideas stored in my brain but there was nothing on file to palliate the situation. Then it came to me, one deep breath at a time, I clapped my hands, and announced with as much enthusiasm as possible, “In-house field trip, leave your backpacks, bring your minds.” We walked across campus to the cool interior of the chapel, where I was able to lead my girls in a riveting discussion of a scripture passage from the Bhagavad-Gita (well at least I thought it was riveting), bathed in the soft light from the stained glass windows we discussed karma. I thought the moment poetically perfect.

Another juicy section of life is my sweet granddaughter. Tomorrow is her one year birthday. I find it hard to believe that an entire year has passed since the world was gifted with little Audrey. I panic when I realize how much time passes when I am not with her, the little expressions I miss, and a front row seat to her adorable temper tantrums (I want the full experience). In my study of Buddhism I learned that we only exist in the present moment, we are not who we were yesterday, because we have evolved into a new creation. I am reminded of the tangerine (one section at a time) and even though it feels like she has always been a part of my life she did not exist twelve months ago. Today is all we have and we are both a new creation precisely because of our experience of each other.

I remember being overwhelmed with joy the first time she ran into my arms, gave me a sucker fish kiss, and danced in my living room to Rihanna. If there ever was a reason to stay mindful it is in the presence of this child. It is a privilege to have this daughter of my daughter in my life and I’ll take her one slice at a time because I plan on enjoying the whole tangerine, “Eat it and be one with it. Tomorrow it will be no more.”

If you enjoyed this posting you might also enjoy: I’m going to establish a Guilt Free Zone or A Deep and Abiding Love

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