Thursday, February 4, 2010

Enjoy Strawberry Moments...

Every day I try to live in the present moment.

This is sometimes a conflict for me because I also like to make the most of my time, so I have been known to multi-task. Often when I am eating at my local soup/salad/sandwich shop I use that time to catch up on my reading.

When I was doing a lot of theater I used to use my restaurant time to "people watch," observing all the characters and sometimes even taking notes. Well old habits die hard. Even though I mostly read while I am eating, I almost always carry a notebook with me to jot down any thoughts that I might want to remember.

These days most of those thoughts are business ideas or notes for my "things to do" list. But occasionally there are gems of moments that I just have to write down so I can use them in a story someday.

The other day I was at the sandwich joint and was distracted from my reading and eating by one of these gems. But before I share the restaurant experience with you, I want to explain what I mean by "Strawberry Moments."

There is an old Buddhist koan that goes something like this:

There was a Buddhist monk who one day found himself running from a hungry bear. The bear chased the monk to a cliff. There was nothing for him to do, if he did not desire to be food for the bear's hungry stomach, but jump. He did jump, and as he fell, he grabbed hold of a branch growing out of the cliff's side.

All of a sudden, he heard the roar of a famished lion, far below, waiting for the monk to tire, lose his grip and fall to its hungry jaws. As he hung there, hungry bear above, famished lion below, two gophers appeared and began gnawing at the stump to which he so desperately clung.

Then he noticed a clump of wild strawberries. He calmly reached out, picked the largest, reddest, ripest of the berries and put it in his mouth.

"How delicious!" he said.

The moral to the story: Life is a series of moments, either lived or lost. Since moments pass, as time... life passes us by, leaving some poor souls having never really lived, at all.

So now you understand what I mean by "strawberry moments." Sometimes it seems like things couldn't be worse. Life is doling out all the lemons you can handle. But suddenly from nowhere (if you manage to see it) there is a "strawberry moment" just waiting to be discovered.

Let's return now to the sandwich shop.

One day not long ago, I was sitting in the sandwich shop observing others as I ate and saw all the usual suspects: business men, blue collar workers, little old lady, etc., so I focused on my book.

Then a young mother came in with two little children (about 6 and 2). The six year old pretty much stayed with mom to order the food, but the two year old quickly lost interest and went off to explore. She was drawn like a magnet toward the little old lady. She played and sang at the lady's side.

The little old lady's face lit up with a smile brighter than any fireworks I have ever seen. Who knows the last time a smile like that spread across her lonely face?

Unfortunately, the young mother came and whisked the child away telling her not to bother the nice lady.

The little old lady was clearly disappointed but sat a little while longer, still smiling (though not nearly as brightly). She was likely lost in memories of her own children or grandchildren.

Eventually, reality set in and she got up and left. She did, however, sneak one last look at that little angel that lit up her day. She walked out the door smiling.

It was a privilege to witness that moment. I tell myself that I observe these "strawberry moments" for my writing purposes, or acting purposes, or to help me build characters in my "scribble writings." But to witness moments such as this one... is its own reward.

Truth be told, the moment I saw that smile morph the elderly woman's face into a whole new "awakened face" tears streamed from my eyes like someone turned on the water faucet. A little bit embarrassing in public, but I couldn't help myself. Luckily, I generally sit in a far corner and everyone else was so absorbed in their own little world that I don't think anyone noticed.

I live for moments like this. I wish I could be the cause of that type of reaction. Somehow the innocent can do it without thinking.

We often think that life is made up of the breaths we take. But really life is more about the moments that take our breath away.

Enjoy Strawberry Moments!
Peace and Love,