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On winter nights, Jim and I sit in our recliners and look out onto the snow and the lake. We wait for our local fox to appear. When he comes, he runs along our south fence toward the lake. He is the color of a shadow and his fur fluffs out like feathers. He trots onto the dam, runs in tight circles, then pounces on whatever prey is available. Within a few seconds he is gone. Afterward, having seen the fox, we are as giddy as children.
Most people respond to wild animals the way we do. I think it is because, deep within us, we carry something far more ancient than human thoughts. Animal spottings, whether of eagles, grizzlies or dolphins, remind us of our ancient selves.
Because children live in the present, we can join them in fresh experiences. Until they are educated away from living in the moment, that is their natural place. Once my grandson A.B. said, "I love you," to me on the telephone; I responded in kind. He said urgently, "Nonna, you don't understand, I love you right now." He could perceive that he was alive to his experience of love in a way that, at the minute, I wasn't.
When we surround ourselves with beauty, we are likely to experience a moment. We have our "peak experiences" on the beach or prairie, in a mountain meadow or beside a river. We experience moments at concerts, art galleries or the theater. However, most of us can't get to these places on a regular basis. To create moments in our daily lives, we must have a new set of skills for making magic out of the ordinary. Psychology and all the great spiritual traditions teach these skills.
To practice living in the moment, I play around with writing haikus, short poems that describe a physical reality, such as snow falling on a plum branch or snails sizzling in a pan, and offer a philosophical/emotional reflection. Actually, I don't so much write haikus as discover them. When I stop my monkey mind, take a few deep breaths and look around, a haiku will fall into my lap. It isn't good poetry, but it helps me learn to be in the now.