I was out on the front porch with Kizzie watching the sunset and taking pictures to post on Facebook, as I so frequently do, and I had a thought that never really occurred to me before.
It was about being in the moment. By that, I mean the Buddhist principle of being fully present in the moment. That means you're not thinking about your ongoing list of places to go, people to see and things to do. You're not thinking about something that happened three minutes or three years ago...or something that might happen next or far into the future. You're not worrying about money. You're not wondering if that chick actually looked in a mirror before she put that horrific outfit on. You're just there. Fully engaged in the present moment and all it encompasses. You're letting the moment inhabit you.
I think most people like to think they're in the moment more often than they actually are. Many of us get good hunks of it the work we do. Most forms of meditation are in the moment...in no moment. That's part of being in the moment. It transcends time. It's also quiet upstairs when you're in the moment. There's no chaotic head chatter in the moment. We're all there as often as is possible, because it's the place that feels the best. But we're all probably not there near enough. Dogs and babies are good at being in the moment. The rest of us drift in and out to one degree or another.
None of that was my novel thought, however.
You might think I'd be in the moment a lot when I'm watching my sunsets, but the truth is, I'm not. At least not in the way a person would think. I'm not sitting there absorbed in the shifting colors of nature's glorious paintbrush the whole time. Rather, I'm frequently engrossed in trying to capture its essence on my camera. And when I'm not doing that, I may be caught in the moment of day turning to night—not so much the sunset as what the birds and squirrels are doing and how all the humans are arriving home and going about their evenings. And when I'm not doing that, I might be in the moment of communing with the universe for guidance or enlightenment. And when I'm not doing that, I'm likely to be completely distracted by random thoughts, and not in any moment at all.
So, I'm watching the sunset with this train of thought swirling in my head. And then I become caught up in the moment of photography. After a couple of minutes of seeing the sunset through the camera lens, I caught a glimpse of the actual sunset and thought, "I'm going to choose a different moment to be in. I'm going to be in the moment of the actual sunset." It's so silly, but it hadn't occurred to me that, in any given moment, there is more than just one moment to be caught up in!
When I'm taking pictures of the sunset, I'm in the moment of photography. I'm seeing the sunset in a different way, than just sitting there and viewing it. And the only thoughts on my mind are of how I'm framing a shot, what all the camera is seeing and how I'm working my camera. I'm sure my brain fires very differently when I'm in the moment of sunset photography than when I'm in the moment of sunset communion.
At any given time, there's another moment right next to us that we could just as easily choose to become lost in. But we're usually so caught up in the moment we're in that we don't step out of it long enough to consider other moments we could be in. And when the moment we're in is over, we don't usually go looking for another moment to be in. We just return to our miserable, chatty, disengaged default mode of a life. :D
I don't know what any of us are supposed to do with that information. But while being in the moment of a sunset conjures certain images, there are so many ways to be in the moment of a sunset because there are so many different aspects of a sunset experience. We can focus on the spectacle of the sunset. We can focus on the sunset as the subject of a photoshoot. Or as the trigger for changes in the animal kingdom. Or as a reflection of a neighborhood's patterns. Or as special time shared with my #1 son.
There are so many moments to be in, no matter what you're doing. And maybe realizing that and seeing your usual moment from a different aspect could change everything. Who knows?
Also, switching from moment to moment is a perfectly valid strategy. And looking for other moments to be in is a great alternative to just getting distracted by chatter when we find our thoughts drifting. While I've always felt I had a good understanding of the principle of being in the moment, I guess I hadn't really considered all the options. And I think a part of me also thought something like photographing a sunset was cheating in a "being in the moment" sense. But it's not.
I suppose I just really hadn't thought of any of this beyond, "it feels good to be in the moment." But I already see this new knowledge/thought benefiting my "being in the moment" moments and I'm spending less time out of the moment because of it...at least when I'm outside in my favorite places with my favorite pups.
It's worth considering all the options you have to escape your out-of-the-moment head when you become consciously aware that you're not in the present. If you find yourself distracted while trying to have a moment with your gardening, for example, you could focus, instead, of the feeling of sun against your skin while you're gardening. Or on the chirping and wildlife around you. Or the clouds passing by. You could turn it into a different awareness altogether. And you can know this moment is uniquely yours—a moment only memory can capture. You just have to be conscious enough to claim it.