Some days everything seems to go awry. But somehow in the chaos we are shifted out of the status quo and our daily habits. For a while we experience life afresh. New patterns are formed. Received wisdom is questioned.
Take yesterday. A fairly ordinary working day except I had a dentist appointment in the afternoon. The morning proceeded more or less as planned. I had fewer students in my yoga classes but that was accounted for. It is summer after all and people need a break.
Things started to go awry just as I was leaving the morning classes. As I turned out onto the main road from the teaching venue I nearly ran over a tabby cat. I was going at the statutory 30 miles an hour maybe less. A blur of grey and black fur dashed just in front of my wheels and a red collar was the echoing memory. No swerving yet I was observant enough to know I was within inches of inadvertently killing a beloved pet. Running over a pet cat would have crucified my day. But no, I was let off that drama. The cat lived another of its nine lives.
Nearing home I crossed the mini roundabout in a slightly skewed fashion and hit the curb on the other side (rare event!) but continued on relatively unscathed except for my driving pride. Just a little bump. My steering was not as steady as usual my intuition sensed but my rational mind thought no more about it. My stomach was calling for lunch. Body wins over mind.
Salad lunch alfresco with my partner and cat was a pleasant interlude before facing the dentist’s chair. I allowed myself to fully enjoy the present moment to allay the fears of the future encounter with the dentist. Then to the bathroom to diligently circle the electronic toothbrush from tooth to tooth easing out any green flotsam. Funny how obsessively we can clean our teeth if we know they are going to be inspected. Being such a hot day I also had a shower so I could grace the dentist with a pristine presence!
At 2pm with plenty of time to spare, as I hate being late for anything especially appointments and meetings, I got into the car and backed out of the driveway. Thud. Thud. Thud. What the XYZ was that! My partner stuck his head out of the study window and pointed at a car tyre. Dead flat front passenger tyre. What the XYZ am I going to do now?
All yogic calm disappeared for a fraction of a second. Scenarios ran through my head. Can’t get to the dentist. Oh no. Can’t teach tonight. Call the breakdown company. They take an age. But the dentist is waiting … . Present moment awareness kicks in suddenly. Strategic scheming. Partner can give me a lift. At that moment he came out and offered me said lift. Initial issue resolved.
Dentist’s chair. No anaesthetic. Routine cleaning job but boy was it uncomfortable until I let my mind wander over what I was going to do when I left the dentist. I tuned out of the present moment and was in future planning mode. It was only later that I reflected on my yogic training about being in the present moment. In the dentist’s chair the last place I wanted to be was the present moment focussing on every minute stimulus of my gums being poked! My mind was better off in the past or future. What a revelation! It made me think about the importance of questioning received wisdom. Always be in the present moment? Bullshit! What am I missing here? That’s for some guru to explain to me in minimalist language.
Something had shifted in my mind. A questioning.
I had to wait at a bus stop to get home from the dentist’s. It had been years since I had waited at a bus stop. So used to driving a car. There had been a time in my youth where I was anti cars and only took public transport in three different cities – London, Milan and Rome. All great fun and here I was, several decades later, having to use my initiative on the public transport and feeling all at a loss.
Found a bus stop. No good. Destination not featured. Continued to next bus stop. A whole range of buses. Chose the bus I thought was right but realised later, when the bus didn’t materialise at the allotted time, that it only ran at the weekend. Re-scanned the timetables and a few minutes later I was sure I had the right bus. 310 seemed to be the most frequent and had an abbreviation next to it which meant ‘school’. And wonders of wonders it happened to be coming imminently and if I missed that there were several close on its tail. Jackpot! Three in a row.
On a bus. Surprised at the price of £4 for single trip destination. But then I am behind the times and prices have inflated greatly. Up to the top deck. Wandering round the countryside it would seem. At first I felt annoyed then relaxed into the present moment. Marvellous. I get a chance to look inside people’s gardens and houses from the top deck. Wow! This is fabulous. I am seeing these towns and villages from a new angle and perspective. Time has slowed down. I am not focussing on driving. I can observe the countryside and the gardens and neighbourhoods from on high. Time has definitely slowed down. I would have been so lulled into the present moment but an urgency gripped my mind that I needed to get that flat tyre sorted and that meant contacting the breakdown company (which will remain nameless but they are wonderful and over the last few years have helped me and my old car out of many a scrape). FLASH. BING. What kind of a present moment was I in now?
Was I in the present moment of the lulling quality of a bus meandering from town to village to town? Ot was I in the present moment of the emergency of getting a tyre fixed so I could teach another yoga class in the evening?
What does living in the present moment actually mean?