It was 6:25 am today when the bed started to shake. I heard a picture frame hit the floor outside our bedroom door. Our youngest son was in the bed with us at the time and woke up and said, “What is going on Daddy?” He didn’t seem too worried and either was I having grown up in Los Angeles where the earth’s little “shake and bake” routine happened from time to time. This was a pretty good one with a magnitude of 4.7. I went to check on my other son, he was still asleep, hadn’t even stirred. One thing it did remind me of was that from time to time, life throws us little reminders to pay attention to what matters.
This morning I was reminded that “Life is about who you love and how you love them.” I gave my son and wife a big hug.
As mindful as we can train to be, we can never control what happens to us in any given moment. Training the mind in presence is a way of preparing the mind to respond with more presence during the difficult events of life (and of course to the joyful events as well).
I’ll never forget the year my wife was pregnant with our first child and it seemed like everywhere I turned people were telling me, “Savor this time, it all goes by so fast.” It didn’t matter what race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status the person was coming from, it was a universal experience.
But this experience doesn’t belong to people who have kids; this is a universal experience across human beings that we often wake up to after some a loss or a near-loss. It’s when a part of the world is hit with a Tsunami and we see the images on the television, or when a friend gets cancer or someone we know passes away.
It’s the introduction to The Now Effect where you read about the business man who spent his life looking externally to power, fame and money for happiness and it was only now, as he was close to death that he realized that it was about who you loved and how you loved and as he said, “the rest of it never mattered.” My Dad is a writer, educator and Rabbi and he was the man sitting by this businessman’s side when this was said.
Sometimes we have to ask ourselves as the poet Mary Oliver has, “What are you going to do with this one wild and precious life?” Allow this to be a choice point to wake up now. It’s well-documented science that counting blessings is good for our mental health.
Or as author Stephen Levine asks, “If you were going to die soon and had only one phone call you could make, who would you call and what would you say? And why are you waiting?”
Let today be the day we all wake up a bit more and reconnect to what matters.
Here are a few:
“These are the things I learned (in Kindergarten):
1. Share everything.
2. Play fair.
3. Don’t hit people.
4. Put things back where you found them.
5. CLEAN UP YOUR OWN MESS.
6. Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
7. Say you’re SORRY when you HURT somebody.
8. Wash your hands before you eat.
10. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
11. Live a balanced life – learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work everyday some.
12. Take a nap every afternoon.
13. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
14. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
15. Goldfish and hamster and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.
16. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.”
― Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten
As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.
Seismograph image available from Shutterstock.