I was a senior interviewer during my last year in college, so I got to speak to many potential students. I stayed on campus to work over the summer and interviewed one student on a sunny afternoon. I don’t remember what he looked like, but I do remember being pleased by the softness of the chair I was sitting in and the large windows that faced the middle of campus. I also recall snippets of our conversation.
The interview steered towards activities he enjoyed doing outside of the classroom. He told me he was a runner, which I found impressive because I never liked running. I was excited to hear more because that summer I started to run outdoors a few days a week.
I asked him what he liked about running. He mentioned the runner’s high and the idea that it’s a competition with himself. Then he said, “lately, what has made it more enjoyable is running just to run.” It was a simple statement that carried a wave of light.
Up to that point, I was running with other goals in mind: running to have better cardio when I played basketball, running to have a more toned body, running to get to my favorite spot near Wesleyan’s Long Lane Farm and chill on the grass. I never considered the idea of running to run.
We brought our attention to his favorite books and expanded on the idea of doing things just to enjoy the process of doing them. He shared that he had also been focusing on reading just to read, instead of concentrating on finishing the book or thinking about the next book he wanted to read.
I was in favor of that idea because I often found myself checking to see the number of pages I had left in a book, while overlooking the story unfolding in front of me.
I never took up running after that summer, but I transferred the echo of that conversation to reading and later, to other parts of my life. That high school senior was communicating the joy and peace that came with being present.
It makes sense to think ahead and plan; it’s a necessary part of our lives. However, it’s also significant to remember that the only moment we actually have is right now.
When we only spend time waiting and fantasizing about our future selves or an upcoming activity, we overlook all of the beauty that is a part of this existing moment. Between our last two breaths, over a billion things just went right in our body.
There are many seemingly meaningless matters that can provide us with great pleasure, if we take moments to experience them fully. Sometimes it’s the story happening in a book; other times it may be feeling our bodies move freely.
Mindfulness is not a state we want to hold onto like we’re restraining a kite from flying away. That is irritating and counterproductive. Oftentimes it’s best to let the kite fly and return to us with added freshness.
A more appropriate approach is one of touch-and-go. Where we revel in the taste of our food and the sound of rain, then delicately release our awareness and move on.