I was mulling over a longstanding problem the other day when walking home from a neighbour's house. It was one of those annoying problems that never seems to get resolved. Not big. Just annoying. But something lovely happened as I was walking along the lane. The fragrances of the summer day were so strong that they pulled my attention away from the problem and back into the moment. They reminded me that there were more important things to do than mull over problems.
We had a summer rain that day after a dry spell. After the rain, the scents came alive around me: sweet balsam from the poplar trees, the rich odour of wet earth from the ditches, the ripe clover being cut in nearby hay fields. It was a feast of fragrance. In that moment while walking along the lane, I asked myself which I would rather do: continue to be mildly upset over a chain of events I could do nothing to change or fix, or enjoy the scents of summer.
Well, the scents of summer won.
But it was close.
I like solving problems. I like working through mental puzzles. It can be gratifying - yet it can also be seductive. Too often I'll dwell on something I can not change in the false hope that by worrying it through I'll get somewhere with it. I know better, yet it is an old habit. And even as I inhaled the rich, sweet scents of summer, I was aware that I had a strong impulse to say to myself, "Well that's nice, but let's get back to this problem." It's almost as though some part of me had decided the problem was more important.
I know better, though. In "A Path With Heart" Jack Kornfield suggests that our senses, having dulled by time and inattention, heal when we pay attention to them. He says,
"The eyes, the tongue, the ears, and the sense of touch are rejuvenated... Colors are pure, flavors fresh, we can feel our feet on the earth as if we were children again. This cleansing of the senses allows us to experience the joy of being alive..."
On this day, the present moment demanded my attention.
I'm glad it did.
Revised from story I first published July 2005 in my free monthly email newsletter, Starry Night. Sign up here.