Recently I attended an outdoor concert in the park. The audience was scattered on a grassy slope, the orchestra played, and a hot summer day cooled into dusk. Although it was all lovely, what I remember best was the young child in a group near me. She stood and swayed with her head thrown back and her arms stretched out to the heavens. She danced her joy in the evening, the music, the place, and the people.
How I envied her! Oh to be four years old and dance with happiness for a simple evening outing. As adults, if we notice the miracle of a perfect summer evening, we are likely to exclaim, “What a beautiful sky!” and then pass on. We don’t often pause to revel in it. We don’t truly stop and rejoice in the breeze, the evening bird chorus, the sunset’s glow.
I wonder how much repetition and familiarity dulls our senses. (How many summer evenings have you experienced?) I wonder how much the tasks and responsibilities of our lives blind us to the miracles around us. Like horses wearing blinders that narrow their vision, we trot along the appointed path, undistracted by stray wonders. Our days pass quickly, and we too easily miss the miracles of daily life.
A Shabat prayer speaks of this condition: “Days pass and the years vanish, and we walk sightless among miracles. Lord fill our eyes with seeing and our minds with knowing; let there be moments when Your Presence, like lightning, illumines the darkness in which we walk.”
Some years ago, I had a friend with cancer whom the doctors gave only a slim chance of survival. Looking back, she recalls those years as a time of feeling particularly alive, in spite of the pain and grief and challenging treatments. She felt fully awake and attentive to the miracle of each moment — because the present moment was all she had! Nothing was taken for granted; no gesture of love, no small beauty passed by unseen. After she had recovered, she determined to live the rest of her life with the same awakened heart and fresh vision. She would continue treasuring the sacredness of each ordinary moment.
In The Miracle of Mindfulness, Thich Nhat Hanh wrote, “People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air but to walk on earth.”
Do I walk on the earth and know, really know that I’m walking? Do I notice my breathing (panting actually) as my legs move rhythmically, my knees bend, and my arms swing back and forth? Do I smell the moist summer air and hear the breeze rustling the corn stalks? Do I see the spectrum of midsummer greens that paint the fields and woods, and notice that the cornstalks are now much taller than I? Am I truly awake to the daily miracles around me?
When we remember to notice ordinary miracles, we will be more fully alive. We will be more centered, not always tilting into the past (“Did I say the right thing in that last email?”) or into the future (“What do I need to accomplish this afternoon?”). These reflections are important, of course, but while we are tilting, the present moment slips through unseen.
To live in awareness of miracles, we need to be able to pause. We need to stop what we’re doing at the keyboard or in the kitchen or garden — or in the busyness of our thoughts. When we do, we can wake to the ordinary miracles around and within us. And we can remember that we are not horses with blinders, but children of God who see–and may in our own unique way be called to dance in the park with joy and gratitude.
If this writing has spoken to you, please share it with another.