“How many moments are there in fifteen minutes, or five, or ten, or forty-five? It turns out we have plenty of time, if we are willing to hold any moments at all in awareness.” ~Jon Kabat Zinn
Izzie was at the sewing machine, altering a shirt for me. I was standing in my bra, impatient for her to be done. She got out her measuring tape for what seemed like the millionth time and measured from my clavicle to the top of my deltoid. Evidently I kept fidgeting and messing up the measurements.
“It doesn’t matter if the straps are exact,” I complained. “Round it off to the nearest half inch. How could it possibly matter?”
She looked appalled and kept measuring. “Actually,” she said, around a mouthful of pins, “There are an infinite number of points in a half inch. Maybe from your perspective it doesn’t matter, but on a cosmic level, it might matter greatly.”
I did a slow blink and shook my head, the way I do when my left-brain child says something that doesn’t at first compute. My love language is written in words and images, emotion and sensation. Izzie sees the world in numbers and algorithms, black and white.
She’s right of course. A line is an infinite set but it’s a hard concept for my right brain to grasp. When I struggle to wrap my mind around a concept, I wrap my heart around it instead.
No matter how long or short a line, the possibilities within are so vast they are uncountable.
This is true for the entire universe. What we know for sure is dwarfed by what we don’t – cannot – know.
Ninety-six percent of the universe is unknown, some combination of dark matter and dark energy.
Humans are like that too, mostly nothing. Each atom that makes us is almost entirely space, spare the nucleus dancing like a single touchable star in the vast expanse of the night sky.
Everything we believe to be finite is actually unlimited. An inch, a human, the cosmos.
Time is like this too. How many moments make up a minute? An hour? A day? Like the uncountable points on a line, we have far more moments in our days than we realize.
Fast forward to now, a month with very little blank space in my calendar. Between teaching 26 days straight (don’t ask), the busyness of parenting a high school senior, and the general chaos that ensues from simply having a family and pets, I feel like I’m going in ten directions at once. It’s wonderful, beautiful chaos, but it’s still chaos. As the days grow ever shorter, so have my morning meditations. The long, leisurely sunrise sessions of the summer have morphed into five minute sits… and even those are often interrupted to let a cat or dog in or out again (and again, and again…). A formal meditation practice is like this, waxing and waning to fit the fluidity of your days. I’ve been feeling guilty about giving my quiet time short shrift, and simultaneously trying to offer myself grace and compassion around it too. But mostly feeling guilty.
Like the half inch on Izzie’s measuring tape, time too is an infinite set with the right perspective. A single moment of true awareness beats twenty minutes of distracted frustration hands down.
It’s so easy to fall for the lie that there isn’t enough time to be still. Too busy is simply code for this isn’t of value to me. Sometimes, the hardest part of taking care of ourselves is showing up. We cannot rely on our days to make room for mindfulness. We must take responsibility for being awake in our own lives. Every moment is a bead on a never-ending string, simply waiting for us to witness or ignore.
While this season might find me more in motion, I have limitless opportunity to pay attention with awe and gratitude. Let me savor the rich smell of my mid-morning latte, milky and nutty. Dance in the glittering light thrown upon the floor when the sunrise streaks through the stained glass window. Smile at the hummingbird and swallowtails hanging around the zinnia bed. Wiggle my toes in both dewey grass and soft cashmere socks. Listen deeply to what is being said by the crunching leaves under my feet.
In the mental health world, these moments of connected awareness are called glimmers. These small moments act as powerful cues to our nervous system that, no matter how brutal or grief-filled our current lives, awe and beauty and connection exist as a parallel. The more we notice glimmers in our day, the more we reshape our brain and nervous system to notice and embody the glimmers around us.
It takes practice and commitment to be awake in a world that leads us toward continual numbing out. But we have infinite opportunities to open our eyes.