Monday, August 28, 2006

Ordinary Is and Is Not Ordinary

Nothing is exotic in itself.
Everything that is is very ordinary
or, rather, neither ordinary nor strange.

I was reminded this weekend of the exotic beauty of my very own city, a city I've lived in for 30 years that I'd stopped taking the time to really see. One of our closest friends stayed with us this weekend, and she had never been to Chicago, so we toured the city and took her to several of our favorite restaurants. In Zen, we train to be present, everywhere, every time, not caught up in worrying about what is to come nor what has gone by. In the too-few instants in which I've been able to attain moments of such clarity and presence, I can only describe it as deep happiness and contentment.

Over this weekend, spending time with two wonderful people, we put aside schedules, timelines, and unnecessary responsibilities, and enjoyed the environment and the people around us. It reminded me of the quote above, which I read in the September 2006 issue of Shambhala Sun. Often I've enjoyed vacations for the non-ordinary things I see—different people, different buildings, different cities, different cultures. But my fiance and our close friend helped teach me that my city is just as new, just as exotic, as any vacation destination. Everything changes constantly, just as the Buddha taught us. And the things I see and experience in the WGN building, Millenium Park, and Pizzeria Due are never identical to what I've seen and experienced in my previous visits, if I truly look and live, without worrying about what is to come, nor what has gone by.

1-Minute Contemplation: While you're out and about today, take a moment to first smell your surroundings. Don't necessarily struggle to name the smell, but smell deeply so you really "get" the smell. Then look, listen, and feel. This place is ordinary, you've seen it many times before today. Yet it's different this time than last. It has to be. Molecules have moved, different people are here or have passed through. Things have aged. Decorations may have changed. Enjoy your moment.

[1] Excerpt from the poem "Once I got a Postcard from the Fiji Islands" by Jaan Kaplinski.


Cecilia said...

The way you write has this feel of pulling one to be present. There's a peaceful, graceful tone to it that lets me savor each sentence.

I've always been one to encourage people to live in the now. Though I must say I'm in constant training for that. The park (sometimes the woods) where I run gives me that daily dose of teaching for those moments of just being present. Smells are constantly present; they may be the same but to me they also constantly evolve (grounds, grass, mud, trees, dog poo)... :-)

By the way, I have to thank you for directing me to The Four Noble Truths site a while back. I've been enjoying my visits, doing some readings everyday. It's been enlightening and encouraging. (I still have yet to know whether my friend's taking benefit from it!)

Your present entry reminds me that every encounter we have comes with a reason. Your friend's visit proved that. She (together with your fiance) reminded you about teh beauty of now. Thank you for sharing this. Now, we too are reminded. :)

Mike said...

Hi Cecilia,

Thank you.

You're most welcome for the Four Noble Truths site. I'm glad you're enjoying it - as long as it's not taking away the time you have to read MY site! ;)