The Extraordinary Ordinary
When my sister and I were growing up, we started to catalogue Dad’s various idiosyncratic sayings. Some were out of context, some were hilarious and some were actually profound, as in, “Life is made up of moments.”
Life is full of moments, little tidbits of time. Most of the time, we seem to be too distracted to notice but sometimes we do. Last Saturday, I noticed.
I was at the LRT station waiting for a train. I arrived too early and had ten minutes to spare. Somehow, I did not feel like playing with my phone and I had nothing to read. So I just decided to … be. And I just was. At one with the extraordinary nature of the ordinary.
It was a very gray day, exactly what I do not like. I find beauty in expansive skies, in clouds, in bitterly cold moon-illuminated dark evenings, many different seasons, many different patterns but not this – the low cloud deck and grayness permeating the very air we breathe. I often consign days like that to “lost time” – time to check out of life, to do unimportant tasks that must be done. Beautiful days I honor with attention but ugly ones I tolerate at best. And there was very little physical beauty – no nature, no architecture, no art. As I stood there on the platform, watching the cars zigzag on various levels and listening to the grinding, I saw beyond the beauty or the ugliness of the scene, into some quintessential goodness that underlies it all. My mind was completely still, I was tranquil and at one with the moment and it was so ordinary. Nothing uplifting, nothing inspiring but yet deeply peaceful, beyond anything I’d been able to achieve in formal meditation. Slowly, I caught my mind noticing the transcendence of the moment. And I actually witnessed my mind recognizing that this moment, this mindful attention was beyond anything I could experience with thought. And then came the scorpion and the frog moment and my mind said, “Yes, this is beyond anything I could experience and this is really beautiful but I just can’t help myself and I must think although I know it will not make me happy.” Strangely enough, I was OK with that because I know that it’s my mind’s nature to want to think.
I was grateful for the moment of tranquility. The moment lasted just a few minutes. I have since spent hours thinking about it. At first, I started to look for that moment to color the rest of my day, wanting the day to be extra-uplifting. Then, I spent some time feeling quite self-satisfied with all my spiritual progress – I’ve really got this tranquility thing down. And then I spent hours reflecting and analyzing the moment and how I got there. This is pretty hilarious considering that my childhood seems to have been full of extraordinary ordinary moments like that. I just did not know they were special. Or worthy of an essay.