Next time …
. . . I’d stop
and be an emperor for a minute
and listen better to the wind
or to the air being still …
Mary Oliver fully embodies mindfulness. She invites us to stop, notice the moment and see the tree by the door. In “Next Time”, she reminds us that we can be “emperors” of our own lives, if we pause and “listen better” to where we are.
Our kids want to be still. Each time I walk into a classroom to teach mindfulness, I am stunned by how much they crave the quiet, the inner sanctuary of their own bodies.
My class of First and Second Graders on Saturday mornings have bodies that are in motion. They sit on the carpet and straighten their knees and try to knock their feet into their classmates’ legs. They roll their heads back, slip off their sitting cushions and lay back for a moment. And yet, when the bell sounds, they sink deep into themselves and are still. An alarm could sound, and they would remain grounded, inside their own silence.
“I went up to my room to just sit,” said Carol. “I was so angry with my brother.”
“This kid kept running into me in soccer,” said David. “So I just paused and listened. I didn’t want to push him back.”
On the way to the emergency room with his younger brother, Robert grabbed his mind jar, a bottle of glitter that he can shake and watch settle, slowly, like his thoughts. “I just needed to calm down. I did a lot of breathing in the car.”
As human beings, we were not designed to keep as busy and fast-paced as our culture demands. Have you ever met someone who said she just wants to speed up? We are in a world that has made “slow food” and “slow breathing” chic and glamorous. That pause in the park, by the tree lit with orange, can feel as out-of-reach as a large college scholarship or a calm pace at work.
Oliver’s “Next Time” is a call for “this time” – the only time we have. Right now. Pause — see the kingdom of your life in all its colors, right here, in this moment. Gaze across your riches. Listen.