On my last day on Iona the sun came out, the wind calmed down. The sun opened up a joyful spirit that just wasn’t present among the wind and rain when I first arrived. On my last day I enjoyed some fish ’n chaps at the local pub overlooking the bay between Iona and Mull where the ferry goes back and forth.
The visit was too short, but perhaps it helped me appreciate the time I did have, the NOW. My afternoon walk kept me in the moment; every step taken in the NOW.
While in the car I’ve been listening to Eckhart Tolle read his Power of Now. His message is simple; pay attention.
• stay in the present moment and let go of thoughts
• when tending to a task in time, pay attention to what you are doing
• be aware of your body
As I try to pay attention, I am amazed at how easily my thoughts keep taking over. My biggest amazement, however, is how uselessness, repetitive, and judgment those thought are.
Try this. Take a walk and attempt to stay present. When a thought arises, notice it and ask yourself: What’s the point of going over that experience again? What judgments, subtle or obvious, come up? Don’t dwell on this analysis for too long, nor repeat it every time a thought comes—you’ll get the point the first time, and that will be enough. Answer the questions quickly and return to the present moment.
From time to time I write about being in the NOW; it’s one of the ways that helps me be conscious of silence and solitude. I’m pretty HDHD, although such a diagnosis was not “invented” when I was in school (very grateful for that), so I need all these little helps to keep my mind and body quiet and attentive.
Esther de Wall, in an article in Weavings (July/August 2002), gives a marvelous suggestion of how to stay attentive to the moment:
i carry with me a magnifying glass—nothing elaborate—one that I can put in a pocket or carry on a string around my neck. Then, whenever I can, I walk slowly and stop and look at whatever it may be, and I find a whole other world—in a leaf, in a small stone, in a twig. But it need not be outside. In my kitchen I enjoy the texture of an orange or the grains of a bowl of sugar.
What a marvelous time I had with my magnifying glass on my walk yesterday. In rereading her article on my return home, she told me more:
This is the practice of seeing with detachment—seeing without wanting to own or to possess. It is seeing with total attentiveness, with delight, with wonder, with love, and with reverence. Such a mode of seeing brings with it gratitude for the amazing ingenuity and generosity of a creator God—a God who gives us a world that is rich and filled with wonder.
I can’t wait to go out today. Or, I can stay in the kitchen.
Most mornings I write what Julia Cameron has named ‘morning pages.’ I open my journal, pick up my pen, record the date and begin writing until I have nothing more I want to say. I then close the journal, never rereading.
Today, however, I did glance up at two words I had underlined: know and now, noticing their similarity—just one added letter. I had been thinking of knowing as being certain of something deep in my heart more than in my brain--truth, not a fact. Now, as I had written it, referred to being present to the moment I was in.
For now, here’s my new knowing. It is when we live in the NOW that we KNOW.
Here I am; my first full day in Firenze, my third visit here this year. I’m doing what I can to create a special, different mood this time, although I don’t even have the words for what I’m longing for. ‘Special’ and ‘different’ touch on it but I have no idea what they mean.
Last night I ate at Fa Fa, my go-to first night restaurant and had my customary crostini misti and chicken with truffle sauce and roasted potatoes. I’ve walked my usual routes, taken my usual photos, and enjoyed my usual breakfast of cappuccino and brioche at one of my go-to cafes. Nothing special or different there.
My mind, body, spirit is open to the special and different, although I don’t believe it will appear in any radical way. Rather, I sense it will embrace being present to the moment, which is not a new idea for me, but one that is difficult to hold on to for more than a moment. Hmm, that ought to be easy: one moment after another.
I’m thankful for the present moment. That’s what I’m working with. Just Be with whatever I’m doing. For example, making up the beds after company. Not a favorite task of mine; it takes time. But what if I remain conscious each time I smooth the sheets and tuck in the blankets? Staying present to the entire undertaking may become a way to express gratitude for the company who slept in the beds. Nothing like have a grown son asleep under the roof of the family homestead!
When I started going to the cottage-by-the-sea in 2009 I was looking for physical solitude. I wanted to be alone for days at a time, and without a doubt I loved every day of it. But now, in 2017 I’m satisfied with the solitude I feel in every present moment.
Thomas Merton suggests, “Solitude is not found so much by looking outside the boundaries of your dwelling as by staying with them. Solitude is not something you must hope for in the future. Rather, it is a deepening of the present; and unless you look for it in the present, you will never find it.”
It’s a darn good thing to be able to find solitude wherever you are in the present moment. It sure makes life a lot easier. A cottage-by-the-sea is hard to come by; think cost, time, life style, and obligations such as family and job.
But what about my solitary trips to Florence? The boundaries of my indwelling seem to include getting away by myself for a period of time. That hasn’t changed, although I feel more grounded in my internal solitude.
I feel extremely privileged to have these getting-away opportunities, and truth be told, from time to time I feel a tinge of guilt surrounding my good fortune. But I am who I am, living in this time and place, in these particular circumstance. I don’t believe in making myself miserable; I don’t believe anyone should be miserable.
My hope is that in doing the only thing I can do—determined to save the only life I can save * I will inspire others to do the same.
*Thank you, Mary Oliver. See “The Journey,” posted on the home page of this blog.
Here it is, my third day on Iona. It’s taken me a while to settle into the spirit of the place. Yesterday I felt foggy as I sat in the sunroom of the Argyll Hotel looking out toward the foggy Isle of Mull. Where is the ground? I’m not grounded. I have ideas for writing but I don’t want to work on them, at least not with any precision. My email communication and blog posting is sporadic, done at whim. The ferry comes and goes as it makes the five minute trip back and forth between Mull and Iona.
Today the fog has lifted, the fog on Mull and the fog in my mind. I recall the adjustment period that slips into my life each time I go off on as a solitary traveler. I like that my time is my own, but that means it is up to me to fill it. Be present, my mantra for the trip, is a challenge, a challenge to remember and a challenge to attend to when I do remember.
As soon as I post this, I’m head out for a walk, hoping to remember to be present. (Internet is weak and slow so I’m not posting many pictures.)
What an easy travel day, or shall I say days. My flight was on schedule, as was the bus to Oban and the ferry-bus-ferry to Iona.
It was sunny and hot, which suited me fine for my 24 hours in Oban and first afternoon on Iona. I was on a seafood diet: lunch of scallops along the quay and a dinner of fish and chips in Oban, and a smoked salmon sandwich to take on my travels here. Last night I went off the diet and had roast pork.
Each year on Iona I renew my practice to be present to the moment. I both succeed and fail, but it’s all quite random: I remember, or I don’t. This year feels different, however, because I’ve adopted a mantra for the trip: be present. On the bus ride across Mull I did nothing but look: the amazing scenery became the foreground of my existence.
I wonder if they play at April Fools in Italy? Probably, but I’ll never find out, at least I doubt anyone will play a joke on me. After all, I’m here for my last three days of silence, solitude and simplicity. Staying in the moment is becoming more frequent. I have time to practice, but really, I should be able to transfer it when I get back home. It all a question of remembering. Like right now I am swishing my cappuccino around in my mouth to get the full flavor and texture.
Yesterday at the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo I only took a few pictures, and to my amazement, I was much more present to what I was seeing. I was looking at the actual art object, instead of thinking about what I was taking. Nor did I spend an inordinate amount of time reactivating my camera.
I did the same at Santa Maria Novella, snapping only a few gems.
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