(May 31, 2008)
I don't generally consider myself unaware. Some people around me may disagree, but what can be perceived as a lack of awareness is more correctly divided awareness. Five children, a home music studio, and a husband constantly on the go often take me in more directions than I can begin to process efficiently. But in the midst of a bustling household, there are rare moments -- usually away from the routine and demands of home, when my awareness comes together. All of the energy that is usually directed to the most immediately pressing issues comes together with the various other trains of thought that I might be sustaining at any given moment, and they simply resolve into a single, undiverted moment of acute awareness that is marked by its complete effortlessness.
Last night was one of those moments. We were at a concert. There had been threats of severe weather all day, but it had held off to that point. I was standing on the lawn at the ampitheater, listening to the haunting blues floating out over the crowd. The sky was gray, and there were white thunderclouds silhouetted against it in the fading light. There was lightening all around us providing a spectacular light show, and the winds were whipping around us. As I stood there, eyes closed against the monitors at the top of the pavilion, I was suddenly startled at just how many things I was immediately aware of, but my attention was not on anything but the music. I was aware of the wind, of the lightening penetrating my eyelids, my hair on my bare shoulders, the vague notion of people around me talking, laughing, dancing. I was aware of the sweet, smoky aroma of clove cigarettes, the drier, ashier odor of tobacco, and the occasional earthy whisper of marijuana. It was all there, all at the forefront of my awareness, but my participation was effortless -- almost ethereal.
I was almost immediately struck by a pang of guilt. When was the last time I felt so free, so relaxed, and so completely present in the reality around me? Was it with my family? At prayer? In Mass or adoration? I froze. But then a peaceful whisper rose to my consciousness. Is God not in the grass beneath my feet? Is He not in the winds tossing my hair against my shoulders? Is He not in the lightening streaking above me, and in the looming clouds ignited by it? Is not every person around me sustained by His love alone, just as surely as I am? Am I not bobbing my head in response to the steady heartbeat of a bass drum -- a heartbeat that mimics my own?
The day will come when my children will no longer be with me at Mass every week. My waking hours will no longer be filled with their immediate needs. The day will come, I hope, when I no longer have to spend so much time and energy on the basic daily functions of our home, and perhaps I will have learned, at least a little better, to be anxious for nothing. Then perhaps I will be able to slip into effortless awareness of the perfect reality I enter at Mass. Perhaps I will be able to to immediately contemplate and realize the presence of Christ when I enter the chapel for adoration, without the time it takes to shed the distractions I bring with me now. Then, maybe, those perfect, eternal realities will be at the forefront of my awareness. Perhaps a rosary in my hand, the pages of a prayer book under my fingers, the the kiss of a lace veil against my cheek as I bow my head -- perhaps these will me what draws my senses into an effortless awareness in which I simply am. But for now, I will give thanks. He met me in the reality of that moment, and provided me grace to acknowledge him in the wind, in the lightening, in the crowd, and in the lull of a heartbeat sustained by love alone.