That is not the sound you want to hear as you walk down the hallway, unless perhaps you live in Atlantis. We returned home from a two week absence to find our basement a little soggy to say the least. We did have a head’s up earlier in the day when my sister, who had been checking on the house, called to tell us the news that our basement has flooded.
With every squishy step I was surprised how positively zen-like I was in the face of such a mess. I actually credit my mindfulness practice as contributing to the fact that I did not totally freak out at the prospect of an unplanned and unwanted basement renovation. A few years ago substantial ranting and raving would quite likely have been my response.
I’ll bet you have had your own version of the squishy mess. Maybe not in the form of a flooded basement, but some other random and unexpected event that knocked you off kilter. I’ll also bet that you, and I, will experience more of these events in the future. Life is chaotic by nature.
But in the midst of chaos, there is an opportunity to pause, breathe and mindfully bring our attention to the present moment. It’s easy to be pulled back into the past, thinking about all the things one could have, or should have done to prevent the current circumstances from unfolding. It’s easy to be pulled into the future, thinking about the long list of tasks have to be completed or worrying about the eventual outcome of things that are likely out of our control.
In the timelessness of the present moment, there is nothing that has to be done.
No list to be completed.
No regrets to be experienced.
No worries to manage.
In the present there is simply the acceptance of what is in this moment. There is also the reassurance that this too shall pass, flooded basements included.
Maybe it’s because we are so used to skipping over the present moment that we allow ourselves to talk about things in a way that is not proportional to what is really happening. We freely use words like “disaster” to describe daily events that in no way come close to an actual disaster. Our hyperbolic reactions make everything seem far worse that it really is. Even real chaos comes in varying degrees of intensity. A friend who came to start the clean up before we arrived home, phoned to update us on how things were going. His words captured the situation perfectly:
“It’s a mess but not tragic.”
While it might be tempting to portray our lives as one catastrophe after another, especially as we share our stories around the water cooler, in doing so we shift our focus away from what is right under our noses. When things are turned upside down, there is an opportunity in the moment to bring our attention back to the blessings that are there, even if they seem temporarily hidden. When we do that, we recognize that whatever is happening, it’s not as bad as it could be.
In reminding us of what is truly important, chaos also brings us face to face with our attachment to things. In the end things are of course just things. In our regular day to day lives, we sometimes allow them to take on far more importance than they deserve.
Like everything else in life, dealing with a flooded basement is just another form of meditation practice. At every turn, events we label good or bad are simply moments to notice what is happening within us and around us, to breathe, and to let go.
What lessons is life brining you these days?