A little over a year ago I was attending a training institute at a retreat center deep in the woods of eastern Virginia. One of the activities we were to participate in that weekend was a sweat lodge. As it happened, myself and one of the other trainees could not enter the sweat lodge because of our “moon time” but we could sit some distance away from the lodge itself and offer prayers and energy to those participating inside. My moonsister and I made ourselves comfortable on a wooden bench about 20 feet from the lodge, wrapped in an extra large fuzzy blanket and a thermos of peppermint tea at our side. This was my first experience with a Native American lodge of any kind, so I really didn’t know what to expect– or how long I might be sitting on that bench (neither of us had thought to wear a watch). Initially, my mind was fairly active– bouncing around from looking at the pond in front of us to the tall pine trees on the other side to the sounds coming from the lodge to wondering how long we’d been sitting there to “oh yeah, I’m supposed to be meditating”, etc. After a period of time, my mind became quieter and I found myself focusing on the pine trees across the pond. They were extremely tall “telephone pole” pine trees, and they grew close together on the hill. There was a slight breeze that day, and as it blew through the trees I could hear them clacking against each other as they swayed in the wind. It amazed me. If I had not been participating in the lodge, I doubt I would have ever sat on that bench long enough to hear the trees. Under normal circumstances, I very likely would have stood up to leave after a few minutes when my mind was racing all over the countryside. I would have never experienced the peacefulness of that moment– sitting there in the breeze, sipping peppermint tea, hearing the stillness broken only by clacking trees, enjoying comfortable silent companionship with my moonsister.
Life is like that– busy, our minds and bodies jumping from one activity/thought to the next. We’re impatient, never sitting long enough to wait out the brain’s chatter to see what stillness lies on the other side. What are we missing? What beautiful moment do we pass by?
Now I’m not saying everyone needs to go sit on a wooden bench in the woods (by the way, we ended up sitting there for 4 hours!)– being present can be done anywhere, anytime. When you drink your morning cup of coffee or tea, take a moment to really pay attention to what you’re experiencing– the warmth of the mug, how the steam rises, the aroma, the taste, how it warms your throat as you swallow. It only takes a few minutes to bring “presence” into your daily life. Give it a try and see what beauty you discover!