Posted by: Kara
This summer has been, in a word, indescribable. The conversations, the home-cooked dinners, and the generosity of spirit—have renewed my faith in community and the ties we all share. But this summer has also been a whirlwind. A typical day includes waking up at 7AM, planning for a Climate Emergency Meeting, gardening afterward and then biking home to cook, clean, shower and finally go to sleep. Many evenings, we all gather to have a Team Meeting, which can easily last two hours. The five of us sit in a circle, talking about our plans for the week and future towns. In addition to applauding our successes (“I’m so excited we’re going to be on the radio on Thursday!,” “We got housing in Brockton!”), we also share our anxieties: “What are we planning for Springfield?” “I haven’t contacted any reporters yet…” “I think we should get up earlier tomorrow in order to use the internet at the library.”
What about the present?
This past Sunday at the Second Congregational Church in Greenfield, Reverend Armand Proulx gave a sermon entitled “One Moment, Please!” He spoke about the week’s Biblical passage, which can be interpreted as teaching us the lesson of living each moment to its fullest. He referenced Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, who has written extensively about the importance of meditating during everyday tasks. In his book Peace is Every Step, Thich Nhat Hanh writes about the beauty inherent in everyday tasks such as eating an orange: each of us should take the time to peel the orange slowly and mindfully, smelling the rind, running our fingers over the bumpy skin, and, finally, tasting the juicy purity of each drop of liquid. Doing the dishes, he writes, can be meditation in itself. Reverend Proulx reminded us that we should not do the dishes just to go on to our next task: we should do the dishes simply to do the dishes. Speaking to our team, the Reverend told us that he hopes we bike just for the sake of biking—that our task isn’t just about reaching a destination, but is also about the rhythm of each pedal stroke, each turn of the wheel.
During our rides between towns, I try to take the time to notice the sounds of my bike: the whirring of the wheels, the clicking of the gear shifts, the patter of the tires on the hard asphalt road. I find myself entering a state of relaxation, where my mind can wander and simultaneously focus on the scenery we pass. I often notice dead animals, blood smeared on the black road, because I am so physically close to their broken bodies. I smell the heavy soot as large trucks rumble by. When I travel by car, I lose these senses: a wing bent at an unnatural angle becomes a blur of brown; a plume of smoke vanishes in the sky as I pass in an air-conditioned box.
In the days ahead, I am making it my personal goal to live each moment more fully. Each turn of my bicycle wheel is a small miracle, as is every second I spend with my teammates and every warm word from a community member I have just met. I will try to focus on the present because I know I will feel more fully aware during those moments than I would if I spent that time worrying about the future or the past. We should all strive for this feeling of tranquility, as difficult as it is in our world of multitasking, goal-orientation, and anxiety.
In one of my favorite books, French author Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt writes, “The secret to happiness is slowness.” What is your secret to happiness? I urge all of you to live more fully in the moment. Focus on your breath. Think deeply about your most passionate cause. See where a few mindful minutes can take you.