God, it’s said, works in mysterious ways. So I’m willing to believe that the siren on the side of our house that blared for ten minutes across our neighborhood yesterday evening was a divine message directed to me.
My wife, too. And all of us, really. The message is universal: Be aware. Look. See.
We were running late, per usual, for our weekly Tango class. There was going to be a guest instructor so I wanted us to be on time. I was ready a few minutes before Laurel, per usual.
“We should leave the dog in,” she said, hurrying to the door. “She had to go to the vet today and deserves some home-time.” I glanced at the dog lying on the living room carpet. Walked into the entryway. Armed our security system. Went out the front door. Locked it.
About seventy-five minutes into our two-hour class Laurel freezes. “The thought just came to me: did you press the ‘away’ button on the security system? We left the dog in, and she would have set off the motion detector.”
“I don’t know,” I said. “I remember arming the system, but not whether I pressed that button.” The more I thought about it, the more I couldn’t remember. When I phoned home for messages, the answer was evident.
A neighbor had called. Wanted to let us know that the alarm had gone off for ten minutes. He’d walked over and checked on things. Nothing looked amiss (not a surprise). The security company also had phoned. Wanted to let us know the sheriff’s office had been alerted to a possible burglary.
Laurel said we should go home right away. We did, missing the last part of the class. She was worried that our loud-noise phobic dog had been driven crazy by the siren going off.
“Maybe Serena tried to run through a glass door in order to get away from it,” Laurel fretted. Briefly I had the notion that our dog could have tried to chew her ears off, but the anatomical impossibility of this reassured me that we’d find Serena in one piece after we sped home.
Which was indeed what we found. After taking down a note from a sheriff’s deputy that was stuck on our front door, we encountered the family dog peacefully lying on the living room rug right where we’d left her. I phoned our neighbor and thanked him for coming over.
“I’m an idiot,” I told him. “Five seconds after I walked past our dog, lying on the floor in a room where we have a motion detector, I press the button that arms the detector.” “Hey, don’t be too hard on yourself,” he told me, “we all can be idiots.”
True. But I still want to look upon this embarrassing episode as a loud wake-up call. Too often I go through life half-aware. I do things semi-consciously. I’m partly here in the present moment, and partly there in an intended future that hasn’t happened yet.
Yesterday my fingers were arming the security system while my mind was thinking about whether we’d be late for the Tango class. End result: we weren’t late, but we missed 45 minutes of the class because of my absent-mindedness.
Increasingly I’m coming to believe that spirituality, or whatever you want to call the “More” side of life, starts (and maybe ends) with being fully aware. Of what’s right in front of us. Not of a future heaven, paradise, satori, enlightenment, awakening, revelation, or second coming.
What’s here. Now. Only when we’re fully in touch with the apparent here and now, I suspect, will we be capable of perceiving whatever More may exist on a subtler sphere of reality.
Interestingly Wayne, the guest Tango instructor, focused on getting his eight beginning students to do just that. He had us practice some basic (yet challenging) leading and following drills. The man shifts the woman’s weight to one side or the other, then takes a step. And she follows.
After a while Wayne interrupted the drill. “Leaders, I can see that all of you are getting ahead of yourselves. While you’re taking a step you’re looking toward the next planned movements. One thing at a time. Lead. See what happens. How does she follow? Be aware. Of that single step.”
He demonstrated with the other instructor, Jodi. One step, fully led, fully followed. Pause. Done. Completed. Then…another step. Fully led, fully followed.
Nothing half-assed about it. Not partly here and now, partly there and then.
This morning I went for a walk with the dog. It’s a walk I’ve taken most days for many years. But not usually fully present. Today, I tried to be more aware.
Reuters’ tag line used to be “Know. Now.”
Excellent advice. I'm making a vow to follow it more assiduously.