As I write this I am sitting outside in one of the most beautiful natural settings I have had the privilege of visiting. I am beyond grateful to be able to stay in this little house on a hill overlooking Goose Cove on Mount Desert Island in Maine. The sun is glistening, the water is sparkling, boats moored in the cove are gently rocking. The wind is blowing and the temperature is cool and comfortable, the sun is warm on my skin. And yet I seethe with impatience.
It feels like a growing agitation – warm and tight in my chest, even my arms begin to tingle. I am angry. I recognize that this has been my predominant feeling today; impatiently waiting for the fog to burn off so I could enjoy the view and head out to my beloved mountains and hike. Impatience as I waited for lunch for what felt like an eternity. Impatience that as I sit ready to leave the house, my kids seem to move extra slowly as I urge them repeatedly to please get their hiking shoes and sunscreen on so we can leave. (The psychologist in me is curious about this – the more I pester, the slower they move – an obvious dynamic I can learn something from, and still I pester and they slow even more.)
In a moment of clarity, I found myself feeling very curious about this experience of impatience. Why is it so prevalent for me today? What is the feeling really? I was reminded of another trip to Maine a few years ago – a different house, another beautiful natural setting, this time a small house on a pebbly beach. As I sat outside in utter peacefulness, the water in front of me, land in the distance, tall pine trees all around – I felt disappointed. It was lovely but what would make it even better would be if the tides were more in my favor – highest at the times when I wanted to relax outside. The beach was too large and the water too far away otherwise. Recognizing this tendency to look for the next better experience, I realized then how challenging it was for me to fully appreciate the beauty of the present moment. I added the phrase to my morning meditation – “May I appreciate this moment just as it is” – as a reminder to keep bringing myself back to the here and now and disentangle from the thoughts and fantasies constantly swirling around.
So here I am two years later, sitting in the midst of nature’s beauty – itching again to get to the next better experience, challenged to sit with whatever feelings arise in the present moment. Rather than experiencing the full richness of this moment, I’m analyzing and judging it, anticipating the next. What can I do now to remember to bring myself back to what is right in front of me? And when I quickly move away from the present moment, from the beauty as well as the challenge, what do I miss out on? What richness and opportunity for learning and growth do I deprive myself of? What if I could pause, anchor for a moment in my breath, settle my body and bring my full awareness to what is right here in front of me? Not only would I continue to build that muscle of mindfulness that challenges the tendencies of the thinking mind, but I might even be able to deal with what’s in front of me with more thoughtful responsiveness rather than impatient reactivity. It might even get my kids to move a little faster.