2015 was not off to the start I had imagined. Illnesses, slips and falls, and other life challenges faced by family and close friends in the first two months of the year had left me feeling a bit frayed at the edges. In the midst of the various “pulls” in my life, I had planned a quick dinner with two wonderful women whom I do not see as often as I would like. The drive to meet them was thankfully uneventful and even though it was a very cold evening I parked the car several blocks from the restaurant, convinced that the walk would be good for me.
I arrived at the restaurant ten minutes early and ordered a cup of tea to warm and settle myself. As the kind waiter walk away from the table, I reflexively reached for my phone to spend a few moments texting, tweeting, or checking e-mail. But then I stopped. I heard my inner-voice whisper, “Just be.”
So I dropped the phone into my bag and closed my eyes. Several deep breaths later, the waiter delivered the tea. Most of us have read about (or at least heard about) mindfulness and present-moment awareness. In that particular moment, without consciously thinking about the benefits, I chose to be mindful. I slowly poured the tea from a small white pot and noticed the color of the liquid deepen as the cup filled. Stirring honey into the tea, I watched it swirl and dissolve. When was the last time I had noticed that? Had I ever really watched honey dissolve in tea? I wrapped my hands around the cup to warm them, and closed my eyes again. The first sip of tea was deliciously sweet and soothing, as were the next and the next. I noticed that my breathing had slowed, that the stress of the day and week was literally melting away, and that I was grateful for these moments of quiet.
When my friends arrived, I was so happy to see them, to hear their stories and catch up with their lives. In the weeks since that evening, I have been grateful for them and for all of the people I love, and I have thought many times about the experience of that cup of tea. I now remind myself often to stop and notice the experiences of every day life. I no longer feel compelled to keep my cell phone at hand, choosing to sometimes put “on hold” the various responsibilities and tasks it allows me to handle in any free moment.
There’s much to be said for the benefits of looking up at the sky and noticing the morphing shapes of clouds, or watching a child walking hand-in-hand with her mom, or listening to a bird’s song. Each moment is overflowing with experiences that are ours to savor or ignore. They can help us reconnect with ourselves and remind us of our connection with all of life. The choice is ours.