Thursday, February 21, 2008

There Are No Ordinary Moments

(Note: This entry is being simultaneously posted on my professional blog site.)

My family and I recently watched "Peaceful Warrior", the 2005 movie starring Nick Nolte that sank like a stone at the theaters but which has since developed quite a little cult following due to its message. It is based on the "Way of the Peaceful Warrior: A Book That Changes Lives" by Dan Millman. The movie tells Millman's life story of being an Olympic-caliber college gymnast who suffers a terrible injury that threatens to end his career but who also meets a mysterious man he calls "Socrates" who teaches him how to train for the greatest challenge of all: life itself. The movie mixes a fairly typical sports drama with some very profound teaching moments that can seem simple in their message but can be very powerful in their impact.

The phrase that has stayed with me the longest and made the most immediate impact is simply that "there are no ordinary moments." By this Millman means that each moment of life is literally saturated with potential, and the only barrier to realizing this truth is our own awareness. Our resentments, fears and lusts prevent us from completely being in the moment and by staying up in our heads in this way we lose much of what life has to offer. The movie uses dramatic visual effects to demonstrate how very much is occurring in any moment of time and how little awareness most people bring to bear in their daily lives.

Since I began reflecting on this phrase I have been finding myself more conscious of the little dramas and joys of life in the most mundane moments. While shopping at the Farmer's Market a few days after watching this film I realized that all around me the most extraordinary little events were unfolding: a woman racing by to get a food item she forget, a man kissing his baby's feet, two friends laughing together, the smell of bread -- although these were all "little" things at that moment they were like gold coins sprinkled all around me that I had been previously ignoring. Earlier today I was making up my bed and the phrase "there are no ordinary moments" again popped into my head. From that point forward the smoothing of the sheets became an act of loving service which immediately made a mundane task very enjoyable.

This simple phrase has resonated very deeply with me in counseling sessions where I typically endeavor to be "on" every moment I spend with my clients. I strive to be alert to the slightest nuance of speech or gesture and always extremely attentive to my own emotions and thoughts as guides to the potential paths of growth and healing inherent in each moment of our time together. I have long realized that if there doesn't seem to be much happening in a session then that is a reflection of my own lack of awareness because there is always something going on. After 20 years in the field I am consistently amazed and humbled by the realization that something truly unexpected and wonderful can emerge from any encounter or conversation.

When I stay aware that every moment of life is meaningful then I am less likely to sink into self-defeating emotions like self-pity and resentment. Years ago I read many of the Carlos Casteneda books and I remember how the main character "Don Juan" taught the importance of treating every moment like death is just around the corner. That makes it less likely to leave this earth with a petty thought as your last act. It's another way of acknowledging how we have the ability (and even the imperative) to make each moment special through our own intention and awareness.

So I can personally attest to the benefit of repeating on a regular basis the statement "there are no ordinary moments" and taking the time to notice how this impacts your perception of your immediate life and the appreciation you are able to develop for the vast significance inherent in even the smallest actions. It's an effective cure for boredom, self-pity, resentment and the most destructive of emotions, meaninglessness and apathy.

So ask youself: what is happening right now? What do you hear, what bodily sensations are you able to notice, what simple beauty and wonder is near you. How alive are you willing and able to be right now? You honor and uphold life when you do these things, and when treated in such a noble way life is eager to return the favor.

2 comments:

Tony in Brooklyn said...

Beautiful. I have always contended that that is the whole enchilada when it comes to art.

Angela said...

saw graffiti after my run on Saturday that read "neat." Yep, life is neat. I thought of your blog when I saw it.