What does ‘being in the moment’ mean to me as a person living with multiple sclerosis. You might say I’m in the twilight of my life, cognizant of the ups and downs but also enjoying so much of what is beautiful. Looking back, I am conscious of how in times past I’ve been affected by and influenced by life’s pressures, tensions, and burdens. And then I’m reminded of the stress, pain, and the trauma of several surgeries; numerous health issues; and most of all the chronic symptoms and disabilities of MS for more than thirty years. I’ve discovered that every day we encounter cracks and fissures along the path of life; and as I’ve traveled that road, I have tripped too many times. So, what did I learn from yesterday’s tough struggles? How long did it take me to accept the unacceptable and move forward? How long before I focused on what is instead of what isn’t? How long before awareness came; – because it definitely took a while! When it came – wow! What an eye opener!
Babies and toddlers are always in the moment and children are almost always in the moment. Their delight in everything they do is apparent. They cry and whine when in distress, and as soon as their problem is resolved they laugh and move on. For those of us who have pets, we know that they are always in the moment. Your dog will greet you affectionately and with abandon even if you’ve just left the house for half an hour. And every moment of the day your cat lets you know that he owns you.
One day about eight years ago I was scheduled to present a program of Mindfulness Meditation at a center for Parkinson’s patients. I had gotten to the building early, and as I walked in noticed that the gym floor was somewhat slippery. With my cane tapping noisily along the floor, I ambled unsteadily and very slowly toward a table and chair set up for me. While waiting for everyone to seat themselves a seven year old child came up to me and said: “you know; you walk funny”. She was a precocious and engaging little girl who surprised me. I thought to myself; that years before during the throws of my dealing with my MS disabilities, I would have been taken aback; annoyed and irritated at anyone making that declaration. But, I had changed because I now had the benefit of knowing what it means’ to be in the moment’. So, with a wink and a nod I quickly said: “Well, that’s because I’m a tortoise and tortoises walk very slowly and deliberately”. Without a moment’s hesitation she said: “I am learning all about amphibians in school, and tortoises live to be 300 years old, so you are very lucky”. The joy of that moment has never left me.
We leave our childhood days moving into teen and adult years, and at some point start to hold onto the past; suffering every disappointment, failure or regret over and over again. So I looked back; I wondered – when had I first become aware of what it meant ‘to be in the moment’? And it came to me. At 25 years of age I was married, the mother of a two year old, and six months pregnant. Recently our family had adopted a rescue dog; a boxer named George. His original family had given him up because he chewed everything in sight. George was totally goofy and fun loving; and so good natured he allowed my two year old daughter to poke and prod every part of his body. She could sit on him, ride him or dress him up in her doll’s clothing. He never ever growled or showed any aggressive behavior. Decidedly, he was the most gentle and loving pet anyone could have; never displaying any anger or protective or defensive instincts at any time. One night he and I went for our evening walk. I came upon three young ‘toughs’ (obviously inebriated) making lewd, vulgar and offensive remarks directed at me. I was very nervous and decided to cross the street, turn around and head for home; but noticed that they started to follow me. Overcome by fear, I anxiously placed my hand on my belly and my heart was pounding. But, before I completely fell apart, I heard this threatening snarl; a menacing guttural growl rumbling from the pit of my dog’s stomach. It was frightening. His undershot jaw displayed gnashing teeth as his entire body exploded with rage and fury. I thought to myself ‘who is this dog’? Where did he come from because I don’t know him? With confidence I didn’t really have; with assertiveness I didn’t really feel; I said: ‘I’m controlling him on lead. Move away from me or I will turn him loose and you will regret it’. Quickly I turned and headed for home; no one was following. We got back to the apartment where I locked the door and then collapsed. I gazed lovingly at George as he nuzzled into my neck and lap, kissing my face. And once again he was my lovable goofy pal; the dog I had always known. But there was more; for that day I had discovered that he was the soulful being who first taught me what it means ‘to be in the moment’.
While it’s not always easy, I practice the developed skills of Mindfulness Meditation daily; and have further uncovered the gift of ‘being in the moment’. I fully realize that I can make it my intention to focus on what I can do, as opposed to what I can’t do. This relaxed meditative approach permits me to release my angst, my misery, and my distress; letting go of the negative while concentrating on the positive. I am more mindful and aware of everyone and everything that touches my life. More important, I’ve learned a valuable lesson; that ‘yesterday in history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a present; a gift to be appreciated’. It’s all about – ‘being in the moment’.