German Village Gazette

Balancing act

Zen-sational state is not without risk

By PAT SNYDER
Thursday March 14, 2013 9:41 PM

As much as I urge others to "stay in the present moment," I must confess that being "Zen-sational" is not my best thing.

Although I know I'd be much more centered if I just stayed Buddha-like in the here and now, I'm all too prone to visit the past and regret it. Or flirt with the future and worry.

I was astonished to discover, then, that I seem to be capable -- under perfect circumstances -- of focusing mind, body and spirit in the same present place at once. It happened the other week on a steep snowy hillside in Vermont.

Now home, I'm trying to relive that rare experience in the hope that I can find the best way to recapture it in my ordinary life.

With apologies for looking backward (not very Zen of me), here's how it went:

Five of us set out to go cross-country skiing. But thanks to some crusty ice, the man tending the ski supply shed advised against it.

"Perfect conditions for snow shoes," he said. And on some sort of honor system, he doled out pairs of the clumsy net affairs that strap onto boots. Kind of like duck feet, only oval.

I signed out shoes Nos. 4 and 12. And with a little help from my friends, I threaded straps through metal fasteners, tightened them, and started tromping on top of the crunchy trail with a couple of ski poles for balance.

I must admit that even surrounded by the high-rise-tall fir trees, I was not immediately overcome by present-moment awe.

Perhaps I was distracted by how quickly my thinly gloved fingers were going numb in the 10-degree weather. I found myself trying to recall old newspaper stories about stranded Arctic mountain climbers.

"How long before their fingers fell off?" I wondered, and threw my arms (and poles) into the air, at the suggestion of the better prepared, mitten-wearing hikers.

They assured me that my random salutes would keep the blood flowing.

When I wasn't looking back to recall cold-weather catastrophes, I was fast-forwarding to imagine whether I'd ever be able to punch in another text message or would forever be dependent on Siri, the iPhone robot, to send disastrous, auto-corrected versions of my words.

"Keep moving," shouted my colleagues impatiently. "Pretty soon, you'll be sweating from too much heat." Lifting one clodhopper after another, I trudged on.

Finally, encouraged by yellow signs that said "Shortcut," I relaxed and focused deeply on present pleasures: tall firs draped in snow, afternoon shadows cast on deep ravines, the occasional cardinal perched Christmas card-like. Time, stuck in the present moment, stood still.

This, I told myself, was true meditation. Body, mind, and spirit conjoined.

So back at the shed, I was jarred by my friends' puzzled looks.

"Where," they asked, "is the other snow shoe?" Apparently, the present moment left me totally oblivious to my feet.

And that is not the only problem.

My brief present-moment adventure has raised more questions than it has answered. Was I in some sort of Zen meditation where I emptied my mind? Or did I lapse from a present moment into a senior moment? And if I try and stay in the present while I'm driving a car -- which seems like a good idea -- will I suddenly forget my feet?

For now, it's probably safest to be Zen-sational in a chair. Even that is not easy. I may look like I'm here, but in my mind I'm still scouring the hills of Vermont, looking for snow shoe No. 12.

Balancing act author Pat Snyder is a Northwest Columbus resident and life-balance speaker and coach. Find her online at PatSnyderOnline.com.

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