06/27/2013 03:56 pm ET Updated Aug 26, 2013

I Pause for Moose

There's really nothing else to do when a moose mother and baby decide to cross the road that you're driving along: you screech to a halt and you stay still until they let you continue.

I'm in Alaska, where the moose are plentiful and the driving is somewhat stop and go. Once stopped, there's not a lot you can do but gape at the sight of the moose (they're huge) and snap some pictures (assuming your camera is primed). But later, there's time for reflection on the lessons learned from moose.

In the first place, moose move at their own speed and according to their own sense of direction. It doesn't matter what your plans might be, or how fast you want to get somewhere by car. When there's a moose in the way, there's nothing else to do but wait. You just can't rush a moose. You just stay mentally present and watch, and wait.

So why do we try so hard to rush when other things (than moose) appear unexpectedly and block our way? Why not accept that some things, like traffic jams or sick kids simply interfere with the best of plans? After all, an ambling moose mama pretty much slows you down like a long line at the freeway exit. And a baby moose (larger than any full-grown human) is just as cute as our own little ones who likewise deserve our attention.

Maybe it takes the awe-inspiring novelty of a moose to help us become more present, but applying mindfulness in daily life is the lesson that can linger well after the moose move on.
A related point concerns the speed at which moose cross the road. Sometimes they shoot past your eyes with raw power and momentum. Sometimes they hardly move at all. Who knows the explanation? So, why do we find it so difficult to vary the pace at which we move through our lives? And why all the stress?

While on vacation, everything seems to slow down. There's time for moose-watching, and more. But at home, we rush, rush, rush. And our busyness is a kind of cop-out or laziness that prevents us from taking (or making) time to be mindful. Vacations take us to liminal spaces, and remind us to bring the sacred with us when we return to the mundane.

I'd like to share just one more idea that came to me, yesterday on Rte. 1 in Alaska, while watching the moose mama and baby. Although that pair was not the first moose sighting of the day, it was the most extraordinary. So, I dove for my camera, trying to capture the sight permanently.

Two things happened: I lost sight of the moose and then I took a picture of the sky in my haste.

In other words, I failed to remain mindfully present during that fleeting time with the moose because I desired to preserve the image forever (okay, not forever... but still, you get the idea).
I missed the moment (along with the moose). If I'd kept my eyes on them, I'd have a stronger memory to recall in the future.

Nevertheless, the event will stick with me for years to come. Perhaps, I'll be more likely to stay present when the next moose crosses my path (or the next experience arises in my daily life). Sure, I'll use my camera (or my words) to record my experiences and jog my memories. But, I think I'll be less willing to sacrifice direct experience for a recorded version. At least, I very much hope so.

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