Meditation, prayer, and reflection, have the power to transform emotional suffering into strength and deeper meaning, according to Dr. Valerio Albisetti, author of Come attraversare la sofferenza.” None of us can expect to travel through life without experiencing loss, disappointment, confusion, or hurt. The roadblock most of us face, however, is our inability to stop thinking about past negativity, long enough to enjoy the peace and joy that come from fully focusing on the present moment. If you are absorbed in reading these words, for example; notice how your mind has temporarily blocked out your troubles.
Three decades after her passing, I still cherish the memory of a certain snowy-haired sage, who with her deep turquoise sguardo, spontaneous laughter, and unassuming wisdom, maintained her inner serenity by tending to just one moment at a time. Libera was no stranger to hardship; but neither past tragedy nor future worries were allowed to overshadow her experience of NOW. Buddhists call this phenomenon “detachment,” which they define as the ability to “let go” and allow life to change as it will, without trying to control events or wish we could change them. Sounds easy, but it takes practice to keep your awareness on the moment at hand. The amazing thing is, a present- moment focus really will lighten your emotional load.
I can still hear the echo of Libera’s hearty dialect as she relished the pitter-patter of beans dancing under the faucet in her colander: “ Lava buono ‘a scarola! (wash that escarole well! )”
I reminded her that even during the Roman Empire, the typical workday ended after six hours—and with a public bath at that. She invited me to imagine the bucket in which I was to wash the greens as my fancy Roman bath, since that was about as close to it as I was going to get. Then came a roar of laughter, over seemingly little more than a moment celebrated to the hilt. Marinella and Rosamaria were right next to me, fully absorbed in their own moment of kneading bread dough. Nicola whistled through his moment of tapping what remained of last season’s vino. Antonella dressed the pomodori precisely and with satisfaction. Luciano carried in more chairs in case anyone else dropped by. Moment after moment of hearts getting lighter, and thoughts breaking free of sadness, worry, anger, or fear. These were joyful moments of just being. Moments of peace. Moments equivalent to the more formal tools of prayer, meditation, and reflection.
This week, I urge you to start with just 10-minute sessions of practicing how to yield to the present moment. Focus only on what you are doing AS YOU DO IT. If washing your car, really feel the water temperature in the sudsy bucket, and the texture of the sponge. Inhale the fragrance of the detergent. Think of nothing else but right now. Discover how, at the nexus of each fully- lived moment, awaits an inner peace that heals suffering.
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