Life in the moment takes care of itself


I’m writing my column a week late. And I quite unapologetically offer no apology for doing so. I had the flu and was too busy projectile-vomiting to worry about much of anything. And as I felt pretty puny for several days after the Main Event, it wasn’t until the following Saturday that I opened the paper and thought, “Hmm, wonder when my column is due?”

Make that past due. So what? It left me with the feeling that I sometimes sweat the small stuff too much. Now I absolutely hate, loathe, despise, detest and abhor being late – for anything. You want to get somewhere on time? Ride along with me. I used to play this game with my wife, where we’d be driving back from, say, Portland, and by the time we hit Troutdale I’d announce, “Betcha a quarter that we get home at 3:37, plus or minus two minutes.” She got tired of losing those bets.

Our kitties have a more sensible sense of time. Early morning, it’s first feeding, the time for which they announce by walking up and down on my wife or me until one of us gets up. The standing-on-full-bladder trick works especially well. Afterwards, if we’re still awake, it’s very likely that we’ll hear romping and maybe the occasional thump as Maddie play-tosses Annie or vice versa, before they settle down for a good postbreakfast nap.

Sensible priorities, those two. Talk about living in the moment. Me? Not so much, at least not right now. As I write this, I even check my word count to see how much I have to go – never a good sign of focused writing. See, my mind is occupied with other things: all the roses that I promised I’d prune today; my chickweed-filled raised garden beds; wondering what to do for dinner; whether there’s time for a movie and is there anything I want to see … blah, blah, blah. My feeling, of course, is that there’s too little time. What to do about it?

According to some traditions – Mahayana Buddhism, for example – life is a wheel and (to greatly simplify) as it turns it represents cycles, seasons, years, the passing of time to which we are chained. In order to free ourselves, we’re supposed to let go of the attachments that bind us to that wheel: fear, desire, expectation, you name it. In ridding ourselves of whatever we’re encumbered by, we learn to accept the now, whatever it is and whatever it brings.

It’s possible to actually do this, in the right environment, but it takes some effort. Back in the day, when I was studying Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism – all things not Western, you might say – I undertook a 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat. Talk about intense. Total silence for 10 days, just to start, along with avoidance of all eye contact with other retreat members.

We rose at 4:30 in the morning, and meditated for two hours before breakfast. Not your namby-pamby New Age crapola, either. The first two days, we practiced Anapana, our focus on the breath touching the nostrils and the area immediately below. That’s it, nothing else, just that little area and the sensation of breathing. It’s amazing how much actually “happens” in such a small activity. That is, if you pay attention to it for 16 hours a day. And Anapana is to full-on Vipassana as a lake is to an ocean. Small potatoes.

And hey, what do you know? By being in the moment for a bit, instead of worrying about all the things I have to do, I’ve finished. Now, to the roses.

Donald Clegg, a longtime Spokane resident, is an author and professional watercolor artist. Contact him via email at

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