Last week was a wonderful week. On Wednesday, as I cheerfully settled down to some writing, I commented to my son that few people would believe I am as happy as I am. I know on the one hand some imagine that the terminally ill must be making 100% of every moment of every day, celebrating all we can since there are so few days left. And on the other hand are those who imagine the dying must be crushed by an immense suffering and depression at the prospect of leaving the world.
It would be nice to be in that first, always-happy group, but that’s hard (probably impossible) to maintain, especially as life –with all its challenges– just keeps on happening in the meantime. Leaving aside the issues of illness, sometimes my days end up dull or misdirected for various reasons. Sometimes there are heavy things to process. Sometimes there are annoyances. But lately, those days are rare. Most of the time, I really am in that happy place!
For me, the key to getting there is being in the moment. When I am managing well, that’s what I’m doing. There’s not much magic to this “in the moment” thing. It’s just that well-popularized Buddhist teaching that’s everywhere from instagram memes to glossy yoga magazines. It would be easy to be cynical about it. But I have to say, it works!
Decades ago in a hard time of my life when I desperately needed help just to get through the day, I was directed to and read a little bit of Buddhist philosophy. It made sense to me intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally. Most importantly, it made me feel better. Very likely, I got much of it wrong from a proper Buddhist perspective. But the “letting go” part especially worked for me, as part of my struggle then was anger at a situation that I had no control over (my younger’s son’s father’s abandonment of us). But I never took up a proper meditation practice: I just couldn’t manage it as a single mom at that chaotic time. Instead, I tried to bring some Buddhist principles into my daily life. This is probably not the ideal way to achieve serenity—let alone enlightenment—as it was easy to forget and end up off track—sometimes for years. But something was planted deep within me, and it took root enough to be bearing fruit now. Detachment and acceptance. Compassion and kindness. Being in the moment, present to all that is without judgement. These were the concepts that helped then and bring me true happiness now.
This moment! It’s all we ever have. And what delight there is in this moment! Most mornings, I awake so pleased to greet the day. I delight in the comfort of my bed, the purring of my cat, and I am grateful. These are the smallest, simplest things, but gratitude for anything brings happiness. And there are even more big things to be grateful for. That Wednesday as I sat down to write, the sunshine set the ice to sparkling on the trees. I was not suffering. My loved ones were for the most part well and healthy and happy. I was alive in this wondrous world. There was so much to be grateful for.