Being in the Moment

Post date: Mar 8, 2013 6:56:54 PM

Lately I've been trying to make a conscious effort to be aware of the moment I am in. Being mentally present can be difficult given the amount of distractions we face on a daily basis, whether it's continual texts and other electronic messages, or simply the noise of the world that invades our personal and mental space almost continually. There are days I've driven to work and can barely remember any details of the commute because my mind was elsewhere the entire time. I've noticed that my efforts to be mindful of the present has extended into my recreational activities, and I've taken comfort in unwinding with pastimes that reward me for focusing on the now.

For instance, I recently purchased a kendama, which is a traditional Japanese toy that most people have probably seen but perhaps not paid much attention to. In essence, it's a "catch the ball in the cup" game, and it is much trickier than it looks. I was humbled when I first held it in my hand and gave it a shot. Even managing to swing the tama (ball) upward and catch it in one of the cups is fairly challenging, and getting the ball to land on the kendama's spike is certainly daunting. However, with practice, it has become easier (though I'll admit I'll likely never go pro as a kendama player!). Few things I've done lately are quite as calming and soothing as playing kendama. I've even been bringing it to work with me to enjoy on my breaks, and a number of my coworkers have become interested in kendama as a result.

In addition to my kendama playing, I've been delving into the dungeons of Etrian Odyssey IV for Nintendo 3DS. I didn't get into the Etrian Odyssey series until the third game (which Missus Raroo gave to me as a birthday present a couple years ago), and it immediately resonated with me. In fact, I loved the game so much I purchased the first two and played a good deal of those as well. What I enjoy so much about Etrian Odyssey IV (and its predecessors) is that is a game in which every small bit of progress feels like a grand accomplishment. The game's pace is certainly slow, but it is never boring to me. There is an excellent risk/reward system in place in terms of how far you venture into a dungeon. You'll face stronger enemies that provide better loot and help your characters level up more quickly should you travel beyond your party of adventurers' comfort zone, but you gamble with the possibility of dying and making all your progress for naught. Finding balance and being aware of the moment are the keys to success.

Perhaps most important of all, I've been trying to cherish the "down time" I have with my family. My son and daughter are growing up so quickly, and while I'm excited to see all the new things they can do as they get older, it also makes me more than a little sad to know they are no longer as little as they used to be. This moment--right now--they are the youngest they will ever be (as are we all). I sometimes look at them and feel a heavy but happy feeling in my heart, knowing that one day they won't need me the way they do now. As a parent, one of my main jobs is to prepare my kids to survive on their own as they get older. But for now, they're still small and need me for so many things, and I want to make sure I appreciate these special moments before they are gone.

Last year we began attending Buddhist services together on Sundays, and it has become something I look forward to each week. I love sitting next to my wife and kids, listening to the Dharma message, smelling the sweet incense, and just being happy we are together. We are reminded of the beauty of life, and how its transitory nature is what makes it so valuable. I don't want to let my life pass by and wither away while my mind is distracted by unimportant things. It's not an easy task, given how complicated it is to be alive, but doing small things like playing kendama, exploring in Etrian Odyssey, or putting my arms around my kids as we sit together in Temple go a long way toward helping me focus on what is most important of all: this moment.