Monday, April 28, 2014

The Time In Between

I do not believe it is an overstatement to say that many people spend time waiting for ... Something. People tend to turn their gaze to the future and look forward to ... Something Else. But in that looking ahead and beyond -- in that constant state of anticipation for what is to come -- we remove ourselves from the moment at hand and anything it might offer or teach or bring to us. We squander the "Now" in favor of the "Not Yet." 

Saturday during yoga class, our instructor Suzanne's words brought this all to mind. The stereo wasn't working so there was no music to distract us or pull focus. She spoke simply and calmly for the 60 minutes of class, reminding us to stay "present." In other words, she guided us to remain in the moment and offer the best we had of ourselves right then.  Not in 10 minutes ... not after the intense flows wrapped up and we rested. Not when we rolled up our mats and got on with the day. But during that current moment happening with whatever it might be bringing us.

At one point, we were in the midst of holding a rather difficult pose. During such times, it's very, very tempting to lose track of your intention (aka your mantra or goal that day) and anticipate what's coming next. It is tempting to long for that second where you can finally move into something different ... something easier. That instant when you flow to a new pose or even rest. So when she stressed the importance for us to focus on our intention and stay in the present, I had to adjust my thoughts and find something stronger inside myself in that specific moment. There was no music to turn my attention to. Just me standing on one leg arm in the air and my crazy, busy mind.

How often do you find yourself looking ahead to something else? Perhaps at work you anticipate going home and relaxing on the couch with a book or TV show. Perhaps that grocery list or chore list fills your mind. Maybe at home you look forward to getting out of the house with a friend. At a restaurant, you place your order and await delivery of your food. In the morning after a late night, you stare intently at the coffee pot hoping it will brew faster. At church you wait not-so patiently for the minister to wrap up his sermon so you can go home and take that bike ride or long walk. In the winter, you look forward to the green of spring. When spring arrives, you long for the warmth of summertime fun. After 12 weeks with kids at home, you long for the time they go back to school and the leaves change colors ... and so on and so on.

As an actor, I await the announcement of the newest season. I read plays and look ahead, planning what I might audition for. I prepare for an audition and look forward to the day it finally occurs. I audition and await the casting. I get cast and await the commencement of rehearsals and eventual performances ... or ... picture a flow chart here ... I don't get the part and start the process all over again. There is always something just ahead or a little bit out of reach to entice and distract me from the dullness or the overly challenging aspect of today.

It seems our attention is constantly tempted to look ahead to something beyond the "now." We are obsessed with the start of something new or different or more interesting or more exciting or more challenging or less challenging or at least more intriguing than what is currently happening to us. The Not Yet is always better, right?

In Slow Flow Yoga, we hold our poses for lengths of time. Certain poses are more difficult. There are a couple I must admit that I sort of dread ... I know they are coming and I find myself steeling myself for the instruction to move to a place I'm not really excited to move to. But, when I turn my focus into dread or looking ahead to what might come, I completely lose anything I might find in the "now."

It's okay to set goals ... to plan ahead. To dream. Like most people, I like to have stuff to look forward to. But, to do so at the sacrifice of the "present" causes us to miss out on all the benefits of the Time In Between the Now and the Not Yet. 

When I hold that challenging pose and focus completely on the current moment, I find strength and calm I didn't know I possessed. When I smile amidst the difficulties, I learn about myself and my capabilities. 

In today's fast-paced society, we want the good stuff now. But what if the "Good Stuff" is truly what is happening amidst the moments we neglect as we turn focus ahead to what is yet to come? Perhaps you can grow your career with the help of that challenging work project. Perhaps you can enjoy the coffee a bit more when you grind coffee beans and savor the aroma. Perhaps your spirit will learn something if you genuinely focus and listen to the minister's words. Perhaps you might see things you typically miss when you truly watch the change from grey to green and allow the warm-up to happen at its leisure.  Oh, it will whether you take the time to experience it or not. But perhaps if you take time to laugh and play with your kids during the "long summer vacation," you will realize what an ongoing adventure parenthood can be before time zips by and your kids move on and out.

My grandfather Willard S. Carmichael could often be heard to say, "Life do get tedious." But he would say that with a smile as he smoked his pipe and took his only granddaughter for a walk around the neighborhood. Amidst complaints of boredom, he would walk slower and point out a beautiful bark-free sycamore tree to that granddaughter. During the long-drive to hiking trails, he would lead his family in song. And it was these Times In Between that remain the most precious in her ... in my mind.

So, when life gets tedious or perhaps a bit more challenging than you'd like, do you turn your gaze Over The Rainbow like Dorothy? Is the anticipation of summer dulling your experience of spring and the simple elegance you can identify in watching your garden grow? Or can you find the best of yourself in the present moment? Can you resist the draw of the yet to come in favor of what the "Now" brings to the table? When you are caught in between the Now and the Now Yet, where will you turn your gaze? 

And what will you learn and discover if you stay present? Strength? Joy? Peace? Perhaps even something more that you didn't even know to expect or plan for ... The Time in Between isn't just a means to an end. It's the Now.

The Time in Between helps us discover who we truly are. If you settle in there, what might you find? I mean, why squander the present in favor of what may never come anyway? And if and when Something or Something Else does come, who says it's better than what we have right now? 
                                                                                                                     -- Jenni