Saturday, June 14, 2014

Being Present

"The power for creating a better future is contained in the present moment: You create a good future by creating a good present." ~ Eckhart Tolle
Time passes. Things happen in time. But in reality, time is nothing. All there is is now. The past is no more. The future is nothing but possibility. Sometimes we become confused about the real nature of this existence we have in our grasp now. This happened to me recently and now I'm trying to learn from it.

How did it all begin?...

When last I wrote I was in the middle of my great experiment: My week off from running post Colfax Marathon. This was the first voluntary (non-injury caused) break I've taken in, well, ummmm, yeah. Decades. Though I've only been back at the racing thing for a little over 5 years, I still ran and ran and ran, day after day, week after week, year after year - steadily since I was, hmmm, 21ish. Before that it was more on and off. But, for most of my adult existence I have just run and run and run.

So, I took a week off - Okay, technically 5 days (a work week) and then ran a short 6 mile jog with some friends and then took the 7th day off. During that week what did I do?? I biked, quite a lot for me, but short rides by biker standards (20-25 mile rides) and I swam. But zero running. Oh, and weed pulling - I did a fair amount of that. And I tuned into my recovery - I enjoyed my rides - took it all in - went to new places - saw old things in different ways. It was a pretty good week.

And then Monday rolled around and I ran - a sweet, hungry, freeing 10 miles, bright and early on a sparkling Memorial Day morning. And then I went off to enjoy a wonderful time on the Bolder Boulder Women's Elite Press Truck.
...and then off to the Boulder Creekfest with the family. It was a frenetically busy, wonderful day.

And then as I stood on the potty line waiting my turn, I pulled off my shoe, standing on one leg, to extract a pebble. As I pulled the shoe back on I felt a sharp pain at my sit bone. OUCH. Oh. What...the...He%%??!!. And it continued hurting, a little, in the worrisome 'what is this' way that these things tend to do. The next day I went for an easy 5 mile jog but all was not well. So, I gave it an extra break choosing to bike the next morning. And things felt better by that night, good enough to give a short gait clinic and run with a local running group.

And as I jog around Waneka Lake, as the sun sinks behind the Rockies and the air cools, I am tuned in completely to everything my body is telling me. I am being present...

Things are looking up...But after a week off, and this little blip, I'm champing at the bit a bit.

The next morning: I leave early for another easy, testing, 5 and things feel much, much better. Not 100%, but better. Phew. Nipped that.

Then I jump on the bike and coast the half mile down to my daughter's school to volunteer for the Heather Heatherwood - her school's end of the year 1 mile fun run.

And, all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds. This day is a shiny happy place. All is good and right.

The kids arrive, assemble, and we're off.

My husband, daughter and I trot along and my daughter is doing great. Friends crack jokes about how it's cheating that I'm pacing her. We all laugh and soak up this moment. I pick it up a bit to get ahead - snap a picture, fall back into the the flow, and repeat several more times. Each time I tell myself not to push it - but I feel good...

I keep reprimanding myself for going ahead too fast - for worrying about the pictures. "Just run with Sophia" I hear in my head.

As we turn and head up the hill, the last quarter mile, I see the fire trucks ahead, and a tall arc of water spraying up into the sky and showering the kids below. I want to get a picture of this, and so I gun it up the hill. As I get about 20 meters from the trucks, I turn my gaze back, over my shoulder to see where my daughter is. As I do so, my left foot hits a drainage dip in the road.

I never even see it coming, though the mistakes I've been making all along have been asking for it. But as my brain registers that my foot is not landing where and when it's anticipating the landing, my entire body responds. I catch myself with my still mending left leg - fully extended - and due to the dip, overextended. In an instant my hamstrings, glutes, and piriformis shoot intense pain to my brain. 'Oh no no no no." I say as I grab my butt and slow to a hobble. My left leg cramps up. I try to jog. No go. I walk to the finish, too slow to get there to see my daughter finish. I am stifling the tears as the day turns instantly dark.

Why the darkness? It's not actually the pain. It's not actually the injury, though I realize immediately that this one is serious (and yes, I am VERY upset about this - mainly because I caused this. Stupidity caused this). The darkness results when I realize that I was not present - not for me, not for my daughter, not for this day and these moments that will never happen again. We can get so sucked into taking pictures that we miss the moments, the actual experiences, and on this day I was slapped in the face with this truth.

I had succumbed to what Plato refers to as the world of (mere) image. A dull copy of the real. Even in the world of perception, there are levels of reality. A copy of an experience is pretty much on the bottom of the divided line. I had chained myself up in Plato's dank cave of ignorance, thinking that what I see is real, through that lens. But what's real is on the other side of that lens.

The rest of the day, I am in tears because I wasn't there for my daughter, for me, for my family. I missed out on something I can never have back. She ran the whole race, and I wasn't there. Why?? Because all I wanted was the damn picture. I should have been running beside her, with her. She will never run that run again. This is a day we can never do over. This is the first time I have looked at most of the pictures that I took that day.

And I hope I've learned my lesson. I pray that I have learned this one thing: Be present.
"Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment." ~ Buddha

Addendum: My awareness of this phenomena first occurred to me in 1999, at the Louvre, in the Mona Lisa room. I didn't own a cell phone at that time. Or maybe I did, but it was decidedly low tech. My husband and I stood before the Mona Lisa, and all around us were others, phones and cameras pointing at the painting. No one else was LOOKING at the painting. WTH??? You can see a picture of the Mona Lisa in any art book. But are you experiencing the Mona Lisa, as it hangs before you, looking through a lens?? Look with your EYES. Be there when you are there.
Similarly, we all know that a picture of a breathtaking sunset pales in comparison to the real thing. The picture is always a bit of a disappointment.

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