Wednesday, August 3, 2016


The present moment is filled with joy and happiness.  
If you are attentive, you will see it.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Learning to live more mindfully, by which I mean living in the moment and paying attention to whatever is present, has led many people to achieve greater peace and happiness in their lives.  This has been my experience as well.  When I clear my chatterbox mind of thoughts about the past or future, I inevitably find that there is vibrant, meaningful life in the mere act of being alive and being present with whatever is before me.  It is in the present moment, and only the present moment, that we hear distant birdsong, feel the wind on our faces, witness the magical unfolding of life in all of its glorious forms.

While I'm not inclined to spend a lot of time on regrets — that allows the past to steal the  present moment — I have often wondered if my earlier life would have been different if I had known then what I know now, particularly with respect to the value of living mindfully.  Of course, one can never know the answer to questions like this. Still, it's interesting to contemplate, as William Stafford does in this lovely poem.

                                                          Next Time
                                                    by William Stafford

                                       Next time what I'd do is look at
                                       the earth before saying anything.  I'd stop
                                       just before going into a house
                                       and be an emperor for a minute
                                       and listen better to the wind  
                                            or to the air being still.

                                       When anyone talked to me, whether
                                       blame or praise or just passing time,
                                       I'd watch the face, how the mouth
                                       has to work, and see any strain, any
                                       sign of what lifted the voice.

                                       And for all, I'd know more—the earth
                                       bracing itself and soaring, the air
                                       finding every leaf and feather over
                                       forest and water, and every person
                                       the body glowing inside the clothes
                                            like a light.


  1. The key words here are 'next time', aren't they? Stafford recognises only too well how easy it is to 'forget' to pay attention, to slip back into the well-worn habits of worry and regret, fear and expectation. Yet, when we do 'remember', and fully enter the present, how surprisingly easy it is, and how fresh and new and exciting the world looks.

    1. Thanks, Robert, and, yes, "next time" are the key words here, for we all know there is no assurance of a next time — not tomorrow, not next week, not next year. That said, we both know that mindfulness does not come easily. To use your words, "the well-worn habits of worry and regret, fear and expectation" tend to constantly weigh us down. Nonetheless, with disciplined practice, we can break through these habits and return to the peace and beauty of the present moment, which is the only place in which we can be truly alive.

  2. Well said, John, and I completely agree with your sentiments. Like you, I have few regrets, and I feel that all of my experiences, including those I considered unfortunate at the time, have contributed to a rich and fulfilling life. By the same token, time is now more precious than ever, and I don't want to lose any of my present moments by being trapped in the past or distracted by fears of the future.

    1. If you read this, John, and are wondering where your comment is, I simply don't know. I thought I "published" it before writing my reply, but, for some reason, it has disappeared from this page. When I went back to your e-mail and tried to publish the comment again, I was told the comment no longer exist. In any event, I appreciate what you said.

  3. We finally "get it".. in the winter of our lives. Better then, than never (the half full glass).
    Your thoughts can light dark tunnels, with their simplicity of the complicated.
    Love your image.
    Another great post, George!

    1. Thanks, Laura, for your lovely and generous comments. It's clear from your own photography that you have found a way to live mindfully each day. Indeed, one of the great, unsung joys of photography is that it requires one to stay in the moment and focus upon something beautiful or life-affirming right before our eyes!

  4. To be attentive - it seems as though it should be so easy, and yet it takes a lifetime of practice. I seem to complicate life by thinking too much. Then, I catch myself and try to refocus. I like the egret, George.

    1. Thanks, Barb. No, I don't think being mindful and attentive is easy. I think of it as both a discipline and a practice. It's encouraging, however, to learn that it does come more naturally with time.