The Power of Now

It’s good when new people come into your life. It’s a chance to learn something new – about yourself, about the world, about all the wonderful variations of common sense that are out there in this wonderfully diverse world of ours.
Me, I have new neighbors. Thanks to all four of them (on a quiet day) what I’m learning these days is that there are often two ways to do things. Of course, being a Libra, I am already well aware of this, but my education has reached a whole ‘nother level.

So far, I have carefully noted down that there are two…
… ideal times to vacuum the same floor you vacuumed yesterday and every day before that: 6:30am and 11:27pm,
… ways to communicate with the people you share the apartment with: walk up to them and use your inside voice, or holler at the top of your lungs from wherever you happen to be which for some reason is always at the far end of the apartment,
… tricks for masking the overpowering smell of fish from the dinner in the oven: put some overpowering incense out in the shared hallway, or act super happy to meet your new neighbor and give her an extensive tour of your place, pointing out how clean you’ve made it,
… ways to get out of the bunk bed you share with your little brother: jump out and land hard (lower level), or fly out and land harder (upper level),
… ways to chase your siblings and cousins around the apartment: like they were on fire and you wanted to be on fire too, or like you were on fire and decided they should be on fire too,
(Note: the last two are likely if you were a monkey in a previous life.)
… methods of giving praise to the Allmighty and Allmerciful: put shiny glittery scriptures up on the walls of the shared hallway, or sing your prayers and hymns to be heard all the way to Mecca,
… options for getting your kids to quiet down for the sake of the “neighbor lady” who just came to your door straight out of bed, hair like Medusa, begging for some quiet: start vacuuming to drown out their sounds, or scream at them even louder than they are screaming at each other.

I once read in a history book how Ethiopia, a Christian island surrounded by a Muslim sea, went to sleep for hundreds of years and forgot about the world during the middle ages. Oh, if only I could.  Now I understand where the expression “go medieval” comes from.

What’s that other saying? If you can’t beat them, join them? I have a better idea. If you can’t beat them, intercept their mail so that it goes mysteriously missing week after week. As delicious as the thought is, I won’t act on it, thanks to a little something about karma I’ve picked up somewhere along the way of practicing meditative deep breathing which, incidentally, is coming in very handy these days. I must have gotten pretty good at it, or else why would the universe throw in the added challenge of sandwiching me between neighbors each of whom hail from two of the loudest nations on earth? All right then, advanced meditation it is. Bring it on Buddha!

Sometimes I imagine a perfect storm where, if our three-storey townhouse was cross-sectioned like a dollhouse, you’d see the downstairs neighbor standing straight on her mat palms open to the sky doing the long singsongy prayers with all her family joining in on Skype, the upstairs neighbors’ kids hollering and running in all directions while mama jacks up the vacuum cleaner again, and me in the middle in lotus pose on my purple $10 Walmart mat, feeling around for nirvana. And all of it in a gray haze of incense.

Times like these, I pull out my iPhone and tap on the little red and white app wherein is revealed – in the row of weeks between today and the end of September which marks the end of my lease – the final lesson of the day: there are also two ways to look at a calendar: with anticipation or with dread. What’s more, one can do this at the exact same time. You can be in the chaos of the Present, the bliss of an earlier quieter Before, and the void of an unknown Future all at the same time. It’s called Being In The Now. Funny, whenever I read or heard about that phenomenon, I always assumed it would be a pleasurable experience.

Who knew?

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