On a sunrise walk, I strolled along a path beside a golf course. The sky radiated stripes of pinks and purple before the orb rose huge and round. Billowy clouds in pillowy shapes dotted the pastel expanse above. Birds chatted, echoes of their calls bouncing off the mirror-like water nearby. Squirrels scurried about, chasing each other in circles. Chipmunks hid and scooted. Nature’s symphony.
My mind whirled, spewing thoughts: a hike at dawn is the best way to start the day; brrr I should’ve worn a sweater; yesterday began Daylight Savings Time; my phone switched the time but my Outback’s clock didn’t; what does today, International Women’s Day, mean in these turbulent times? Now that we are fully vaccinated, we will visit our grandchildren next week. I’ll buy dark chocolate on my way home in an hour; oh, we need walnuts too; that conversation with my brother was fun last week; I have to water the plants when I get back; I hope my friend calls later; I hope we’ll chitchat about Senior College courses and not world politics, climate change, Covid, which we might, because we have in the past and will in the future.”
Phew! Thoughts romped around in my brain like monkeys jumping from one branch to another, tree to tree. “Yesterday. Last week. In an hour. Later today. Hopes. Next week.” The mind can be exhausting.
Monkey mind hops to the past and future. This day, with busy thoughts, my body almost missed my walk, almost missed the present moment. And then a golf ball jerked me out of my in-the-head reverie. I spotted a little white ball in the scruffy grass at my feet. Too early in the spring for the golf course to open, two men, with Blue Tooth ear pieces, rushed from around a hill, swished a golf club back and forth, shrugged their shoulders, and as if finding a magnificent treasure, high-fived, picked up the ball which must have been lost last summer, and toddled back to their path. Funny, I thought. In that moment just before my mind was about to bolt from “maybe I didn’t dress warm enough” and “I hope it doesn’t snow later,” to the chaos of politics, climate crisis and the deadly coronavirus, I laughed.
The body can’t time travel like the unfocused mind. The body is always right here, right now. With a golf ball and two waiting-for-golf-season men to thank, my body woke up to the moment. I stopped paying attention to monkey mind and looked around, listened, engaged the senses and I heard heavy chopping. I would have called it hard to miss, but I might have.
Awake to my surroundings now, aware, I followed the tap-tap-tap to the tree where it originated and saw the magical beauty of a red-crested Pileated woodpecker. He drummed and drilled with his bill into a horizontal branch. He perched there majestically as if he owned the branch, the trunk, the tree. Tap, tap, tap. Jab. Jab. Jab. Wow.
We have a choice in any moment. We can either be here, in our bodies, in our senses, open to surprises, or we can busy ourselves in our heads reliving the past or imagining the future.
I stepped away from the woodpecker and felt the morning breeze. When we turn to what is right in front of us, we don’t miss our walks, we don’t miss our lives, and we don’t miss nature’s symphony.
Love the monkey analogy! And love the moral of the story. Well done, as always, Sue!
A 7 a.m. mammogram appointment this morning put me in ‘monkey mind’–your essay was exactly what I needed to read when I got home!! Thank you, Sue!!
I’ve often wondered why the people, places and names that “escape me” when I’m awake and busy with daily demands, will so often present themselves effortlessly when I’m dreaming? Your comments about the “unfocused mind” (during sleep) seems to answer that. I thought it was due to my getting older but appreciate your perspective on the mind and the daily chaos we deal with. Thank you!