Yesterday afternoon I was seated in traffic, the heat notwithstanding, my little girl in the back seat all excited from school. Contrary to what a lot of people do in traffic, which is to get frustrated and impatient, I found myself seemingly frozen in the moment.
I took in my surroundings slowly, like I was seeing everything for the first time.
Next to me was a gaudily modified matatu from one of the city’s far flung residential suburbs. From its interior blared loud music which I didn’t recognize but whose beat I found my left foot unconsciously tapping along with.
I could feel the curious gaze of the vehicle’s multiple occupants as they did what people in traffic do best. Stare. Gawk actually. Such scrutiny used to make me feel very self-conscious; today however it didn’t bother me at all. Actually it barely registered in my mind at that moment.
As traffic slowly inched forward, my gaze rested on a fuel station across the road. It was also the location of a popular eatery attracting those who love their ribs sticky and finger licking good. I took in the customers chatting animatedly as they dug into their meals and sipped on their drinks. Meters away, the fuel station attendants did a brisk job of topping up car tanks as the car owners sat in their vehicles.
There were people walking all over. The sides of the road. Weaving between the cars idling on the tarmac. Yet others walked above us. Utilizing the fly over crossing that had been thoughtfully provided for them.
Adjacent to my car on the left was a popular city hotel. Mostly made famous by the allegations that the owner had used his political clout to not-so-legally procure the land on which the hotel now arrogantly perched. Quite the fuck-you statement if you ask me.
“Mum, where is my yoghurt?”
My attention was dragged back into the car, away from all that was happening outside. As I handed her the cup from Planet Yoghurt, the cars ahead of me started to move and I put my car into gear and slowly pulled forward.
That picture of that moment feels like its permanently emblazoned in my mind. Every color, sound and smell is crystal sharp in my mind. I have passed that street so many times, often stuck in traffic. Yet the image I gazed upon this time was distinctly different.
Somehow it had heart. It felt like everyone knew and even loved each other. It seemed like we were all just going about our life’s story. Each uniquely writing, and consequently living out, our life’s script.
It was a beautiful present moment. As I gazed upon that picture, I realized that all my focus was 100% in that very present moment.
It was not dwelling in the thirty minutes before, going back over my interactions as I purchased frozen yoghurt. Neither was it two hours later, wondering what I would make my family for dinner.
All of my focus, all of my feelings, all of my thoughts, every single part of my physical being were all present in that exact moment. And it allowed me to see so much more of that place, than I had ever seen before. It allowed me to see the true wondrous beauty of our world, our country, our city, our universe. It allowed me to immerse my heart in the wind blowing lazily through my car windows; the sun playing a game of cat and mouse with the light clouds.
I felt my entire being become one with all my surroundings. Honestly, it was the most beautiful feeling in the world.
How much of the present moment are you giving up when you focus on the past or the future?
Just remember that at some point, both the past and the future will get an opportunity to be the present; but the present will never be either past or future.