This blog was meant to focus on my experiences of retreat. But the retreat ended in October, and since then I’ve been immersed in our bustling-working-traffic-shopping-cellphone-internet world. Like that last sentence, this world feels cluttered and fast. Compared to the monastery, this world is all impulses and explosions.
Since coming back from the monastery, I’ve noticed that I continually pop in and out of awareness. One moment, my mind is alert to the light and sound of my surroundings, aware of breath in body. Then, next thing I know, I’m snapping back from a daydream, realizing I’ve been glassy-eyed and absent, lost in a memory or rehearsing a conversation or planning my dinner. It happens over and over. Embodied, then spaced out. Here, then gone.
So I’m wondering. How do we cultivate a clear, present mind, no matter where we are? How do we maintain peace of mind even when we’re surrounded by car alarms, iPhones, troubled friends, and most of all our own chattery minds? How do we train ourselves to stay in the moment, when we’re constantly distracted by plans and desires and memories?
I was struggling with this question. What came to me was: Courting the moment.
My housemate Kirsten likes to talk about how she met an interesting woman named Doña and started “courting her as a friend.” In her characteristic open-hearted fashion, Kirsten announced the courtship to Doña, who was of course delighted to be courted. They spent time together painting in their journals, eating gourmet meals, taking photos, going to barn dances, etc. Now the two of them are close friends – a pair of brilliant women who both seem brighter and more freely creative because of their friendship.
I like the idea of courting – not just courting a person, but courting a state of being. Courting presence. Courting this moment. When you court someone, you give them your rapt attention, invest time and energy getting to know them. You study them. You put other things aside and turn your spotlight on them. You put them at the heart of your story.
Courting the moment. Dropping thoughts of past and future. Resting attention on what’s happening now. Keen curiosity about sounds and smells. Loyalty to the body and whatever it’s feeling.
Courting the moment is like asking the world, what are you? And raptly listening, and openly looking, to find out.
When I court the moment, it tickles me to find out that she was courting me, all along.