The present moment is not always present

photos-2151You are bad at many things, but the subject of today’s badness is meditation, at which you are particularly bad.

How you long to be a good meditator, like some of your friends, the ones who have been meditating for thirty or more years and can call up that pervasive sense of calm whenever they’re in trouble, or self-doubting, or afraid.

You’re in trouble and self-doubting and afraid much of the time.

You want to live in the present moment. Has that not been your goal your entire life? You remember being a baby, looking through the stair railing, knowing how fast it would all go by, and thinking remember this.

You remember riding your bike as fast as you could down Anken’s hill, looking at the speedometer you got for your birthday, seeing it read 35mph, feeling a giant surge of life, and thinking remember this.

You remember clutching your books to your chest as you walked through the alley on the way to the firehouse, and realizing that you were eleven years old and everything – everything – was possible to you, and thinking remember this.

And so many other moments. That night on the beach with the quilt. That morning with the fishing boat in the fog. The way that old man dropped the knife and looked around the table to see if anyone had noticed. How you came out the door and they were gone, and how you called after them. That late night listening to Nick Lowe sing long-limbed girl. Waking in your car in the Everglades that dawn. How the baby boy bent over and laughed and called the unfurling fern a dinosaur.

And these moments are still with you, those feelings still come to you, even at this age that you are right now, which is not eleven. You do remember. You with your faulty and random memory (“Very nice to meet you! . . . oh, we’ve already met?. . . of course, of course, now I remember. . . not) – these things, those days, those moments, you remember.

Return to the breath. When your thoughts stray, gently return to the breath. Focus on the breath. Breathe in. Breathe out.

But that is your breath, you think. That bike ride, that night on the sand, the look on the old man’s face. Long-limbed girl, where are you now?

You picture a telephone operator from the 1940’s, speaking into her microphone, plugging into this line and then that line and then that other line. That is you, all the ages you ever were, all the times you ever lived through.

Right here, right now, you are thousands of glimmering moments.



  1. oreo · June 18, 2009

    i suck at mediation too. always have. mind always wandering hither and yon. if i’m actually calm enough to give it a go, then i’m calm enough to sleep, which i proceed to do promptly. i always would have said my mind is hyperactive or i’m overly distracted or some other negative, but from now i shall cloak myself in the glorious claim that i am “thousands of glimmering moments.”


  2. Pepper · June 19, 2009

    You are not alone. Not at all. I too have a flittering mind. So what.


  3. Ally · August 28, 2009

    I went two places via google tonight (in an amazing show of internet restraint). One was the website for the center for spirituality and healing at the U of MN, to get info on the Mindfulness Meditation class offered this fall.

    And the other was Alison McGhee’s blog, only to find the June 17 entry “The present moment is not always present.”

    My gosh, it’s beautiful.


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