I am sure that all of you readers are in different places and picture different things for your future. You all likely have some picture of what you would like in your future. I remember how I imagined my adult life would be when I was in high school and college. Where I might live, and what I would do, how much money I would make, travels and whimsical experiences of horseback riding on beaches and mountains and living totally free. I thought about who I might marry and what kind of partner I would be. Now I am an adult, mother and wife, but of course nothing is how imagined. It is far better than I could have pictured, far more challenging, and absolutely miraculously mundane.
Not a perfect picture, but one that reminds me to savor my loved ones.
Miraculously mundane? What does that even mean Ashley? There is a depth to life lived that cannot be imagined before you get to the moments themselves. It is not bad to dream. Your dreams are information on who you are, who you want to be, and can play an important role in guiding you towards the things which you love. However, clinging to our dreams and the perfection in them can be problematic. Clinging to how we want things to be rather than allowing life to reveal itself to us day by day in its own way sets us up for disappointment. All of life is mundane. We all eat, we all sleep, we all must poop, and on a rather more serious note we all must be vulnerable, experience heart break, and are all temporary. No moment can be paused, or experienced longer than its time. All of us experience what it means to be temporary.
The mundane is the plain in which most of our lives take place, and because of life’s temporary nature can be felt as miraculous, beautiful, and something worth being awake for. However it’s becoming increasingly easy to miss out on the beauty of our own lives.
(Kid swinging, mundane for most, but beautiful to me)
I am going to introduce you to one of my all time favorites poems. You know some real wisdom is about to drop when the words come from this amazing woman- Mary Oliver.
A Summer Day, by Mary Oliver
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
The ending of the poem grabs me every time! “Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” I love it because it wakes me up! The poet has been holding a grasshopper and watching it, and then carries us to this truth, that everything passes away, time moves on, and so asking this question “What are you going to do with your life?” Is important, and I think the first thing is wake up to it! See it. Even the parts that are so uninteresting, boring or cracked can be important in your becoming you.
As I said at the beginning dreaming can be good, but when we cling to our idea of what a perfect future, day or moment looks like we miss out on right here. In an episode of Avatar the Last Air bender I was reminded of this idea of contentment. One character says to another about a town they just arrived in “This will do but I don’t want to make a life here”, and his uncle wisely responds “here is where life happens whether you make it or not.” So true. So many of us hold our reality up to this picture of perfection we have seen on t.v., read about, or imagined. I think our interactions with social media can serve to make being present even more challenging. We see our friends and acquaintances posting pictures of their awesome lives and we can start to feel inferior. However some of my favorite photographs and pieces of art, writing and poetry point me back to the beauty in my own life and remind me to savor it. Here are some examples.
All of these photographs point to the beauty within common moments.
Here is another take on the mundane, which is both funny and charming.
This is from a polish photographer and designer Pawel Kadysz. A daily life of Darth Vader portraying the Sith Lord as just a normal guy with everyday life problems. I love this take on showing that within the stories we see, and tell we don’t think about the fact that everyone is more similar than different. That everyone is mundane.
Now I’m not saying don’t dream, do dream and be present for your thoughts, and then with awareness you can take real steps towards creating a life that makes you feel happy, content and fulfilled. Just don’t miss out on the joy of now for the possibilities that exist in tomorrow. Remember that perfection doesn’t exist.
When we dream of a future we don’t picture the imperfections, the mess ups, the challenges. These can be moments of tremendous beauty, growth and love if we are open to it. If we want things to be perfect we will only be disappointed. If we are open to beauty existing right where we are, and within everyday life we can find tremendous joy.
The challenge for us all is to learn to appreciate the beauty in other people’s lives, stories, and work while at the same time finding contentment and beauty in our own lives even within imperfections. This is hard with the pervasive nature of seeing other people’s lives so much through our feeds, but we have to remember we often are not seeing the whole picture. And while we sit her looking at someone else’s life we are missing out on our own. When you can learn to hold it in balance loving and valuing your own unique but normal life, while appreciating someone else’s you can begin to allow their life to be a part of the beauty in your own. This is so freeing.
So here is a SOCIAL MEDIA CHALLENGE: take one picture everyday for a month highlighting something you find beautiful, mundane or worth capturing that isn’t enhanced or edited in any way. Get out there and find the beauty in your everyday life. Is it a homeless man with a great smile you have been walking past? Is it your own feet on your favorite floor, is it your dog, or family at dinner? Find the moments you have missing and savor it through a lense. For more inspiration watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=78ARBe2JCXw
To fully begin savoring sit down, get quiet and listen. Cultivate a sense of being present for your life unfolding right here, and now. Start with a comfortable seat and observe your breath, or go for walk outside and just listen to what is there. Get in nature and don’t speak, or do anything for a couple of minutes, just observe nature, and be there fully. These quiet moments can begin to expand where you begin to experience everything more fully, from your mother’s voice, your dad’s laugh, the smell of your home, and the warmth in a friend’s hug. These small moments that seem so insignificant compose your life. Listen to them, witness them.
More on beauty, contentment, perfection, and being human: