Open to the Moment

Anna walks through the grass at Hendricks Park in May 2009

Photo: Julia Ozab

This is a post I wrote on my old blog three years ago, and I’m reposting it here to share it with a larger audience. In it, I describe a trip we took to Hendricks Park on Memorial Day, 2009, and a lesson I learned from an interaction between my daughter and a mindful stranger:

May 26, 2009

Yesterday, my wife, daughter, mother-in-law, and I all went to Hendricks Park to enjoy a warm sunny afternoon. My wife brought her camera along to take pictures of the rhododendrons, which bloom throughout the month of May. My daughter brought her unlimited energy.

We walked out onto a large grassy area. The trees surrounded us, shading the grass below and framing the clear blue sky above. A woman was sitting in the middle of the lawn on a blanket. Her arms were wrapped in a shawl and her eyes were closed. She was clearly meditating. We hushed our voices so not to disturb her.

Anna (my daughter) is only three: too young to notice when someone might not want to be disturbed. No, she has to run up to every one she sees and say:

“Hi, my name is Anna. What’s your name?”

I caught up with her and whispered to her “Anna, I think this lady is meditating. We need to be quiet.”

The woman looked up and began talking to Anna. I apologized to her. “That’s ok,” she replied. “ I’ve got a little one too. She’s eleven now, but she’s still my little one.” She then turned to Anna. “How old are you?” Anna loves to answer that question. She held up her thumb and her first two fingers and replied “Fwee!”

I thought about the Buddhist concept of Mindfulness and how this woman seemed to exemplify it. She was fully in the moment whether that moment was the slight breeze blowing on her closed eyelids or the exuberant greeting of a happy little girl.

I also thought of Jesus’ words to his disciples “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” (Matthew 19:14 NRSV)

I wondered how I would have responded in a similar situation, especially before I became a father. Say I was praying the rosary or reading the psalms when a little child interrupted me.

“Hi, my name is Anna. What’s your name?”

Would I have been open to the moment, to the Spirit who might just be speaking through this little child? Or would I, in my attempt to have a quiet prayer time, miss a glimpse of the Kingdom of Heaven?

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