Living In the Moment

Please welcome my guest today, Joan Z. Rough, an artist, writer and poet. In her comments below, Joan  muses about the challenge of living in the moment, a key theme in my recently released novel, A Fitting Place.


“Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right
                      now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant                                                    without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with                                                   the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this                                                                     way (which it won’t).”               James Baraz

living in the momentI love going out into my yard early in the morning to listen to the day awaken. With the first rays of sunlight, everything changes. Do you hear the woodpecker drumming on the old oak tree down the hill? There are baby crows nagging their parents to be quick about bringing them breakfast and the mockingbirds nesting in the cedar tree sound like they’re having an argument. Several robins are digging for worms and grubs not far from where I sit. A few houses down, a door slams and a child is whimpering. Traffic is picking up on Emmet Street, as commuters head off to work. The smell of eggs and bacon sizzling next door is making my stomach growl.  The huge expanse of deep blue sky is interrupted by a few fleecy clouds and the contrails of a jet liner going west.  Are the people on board sleeping or watching the landscape brighten with the sun below them?

Sounds heavenly, doesn’t it?  It’s a meditation. An awareness of the space I’m sitting in, an understanding of where I am. It’s being in the moment, at ease, and recognizing the world around me without making judgments about it. It’s called mindfulness.

I leave my seat on the patio to go back inside. The television is blaring the morning news.  Headlines on the front page of the paper scream out about bombings in Iraq, who beat whom in the primaries a few states away, and why the loser can’t be gracious about his or her tough luck.  Lilly, the cat rubs against my legs and the dogs follow my every move, wondering where breakfast is and why I’m being so poky. The teakettle is whistling and I can’t decide which tea to choose. I’m slightly annoyed that Bill forgot to empty the trash last night. It’s beginning to overflow. Where do I put the banana peels and the empty dog food can?

Mindfulness is slipping away.

A few hours later I leave the grocery store and get stuck in traffic.  There is an accident up the road and there is no way for me to turn around so I can go home another way. I’m worried that the ice cream I just bought as a special treat will melt.  I’m supposed to meet with the plumber in thirty minutes. The laundry sink is plugged up. Traffic is still not moving and I know I’m going to be late.  I look for my phone, but it’s dead. I forgot to charge it last night. My head starts to pound and I’m frustrated and pissed off that the day is not going well. My gut is filled with churning rocks and a few tears surface in the corners of my eyes. My head is filled with words like unfair, how can I, I have to, and I can’t. This is not what I had planned for my day.

I’m not only stuck in traffic, I’m stuck inside of myself, worrying about what is going to happen if I’m late to meet the plumber. I’ve forgotten that the sun is still shining.  I don’t notice the homeless man standing a few cars ahead of me holding a cardboard sign that reads, “Homeless and Hungry.  Please help. God Bless You.”  I can’t hear anything but the ranting going on in my head. I haven’t thought of or sent healing prayers to those who may have been injured in the accident just up the street. I rummage through my purse for something sweet to chew on, thinking it will calm my nerves.  I’m spinning off into a melt down and everything is about me, Me, and ME.

What happened to the profound peace, the sense of mindfulness, I felt earlier in the day?  Life doesn’t always provide us with a tree we can sit under and a chorus of birdsong.  More often than not, it sends us a traffic jam, a serious argument with a friend, a life changing injury, deadlines at work, and the overwhelming speed with which the world travels around us. It’s about what we label the good and the bad. It includes the beautiful melody sung by a wood thrush, as well as the gun shots I hear in the distance that send shivers up my spine.  It includes what I see, taste, smell, and touch. It includes my nasty thoughts about someone I’m not fond of and the delight I feel for the small boy I watch looking at a window display of toy trains. He is smiling and talking to himself.

I’m easily triggered by certain words, the way someone looks at me, or the sounds of a nearby siren.  As a small child I learned to be attuned to the way my father looked. When his eyes grew very dark, and the tone of his voice grew lower, I tried to make myself invisible.  When he hummed to himself and his eyes twinkled with mischief I knew everything was all right. When my mother had a glass of wine or a Manhattan in a restaurant at dinner, I knew we were in for trouble.  I was always anticipating or worrying about things I had done.

I’ve come late to mindfulness and find it extremely difficult to maintain. But when I manage to breathe deeply and pause before I react, being in the present moment keeps me in touch and in tune.  It’s a way to find ease in this crazy world and helps me to remain calm and at peace in whatever situation I find myself in.

The next time you find yourself worrying about tomorrow or something you said or did last week, take a deep breath, and be in the moment before getting caught up in the sticky web of life.


DSC_2659Joan Rough is an artist, poet, and writer of nonfiction.  Her poems have been published in a variety of journals, and are included in the anthology, Some Say Tomato, by Mariflo Stephens. Her first book, AUSTRALIAN LOCKER HOOKING: A New Approach to a Traditional Craft, was published in 1980. She is currently at work on her upcoming memoir, ME, MYSELF AND MOM, A Journey Through Love, Hate, and Healing.

You can follow Joan’s blog on her website at




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  1. I really enjoyed this post, Joan–and thank you, Mary, for hosting Joan and introducing her to us. Life certainly doesn’t always provide us with a tree to sit under and a chorus of birdsong and, I’m with you, that an attitude of mindfulness can be a challenge to maintain amidst the cacophony of modern day life. I find time tending my garden and sitting in nature replenish my soul and help me stay in the moment. Simple things like washing dishes or stirring a pot of milk to make yogurt can also be meditative processes if I allow it. Great post…and I’m popping over to check out your blog now.

    • Thank you, Linda. I too find find peace working in my garden and the simplest of chores become sweet meditations. I can deal with life ‘s overboard speed when I take the time to just be.

      • Mary Gottschalk says

        I was delighted when Joan agreed to do this very moving piece. I have been a ardent devotee of living in the moment since my year on the Pacific Ocean — when I discovered how much really happens in the ocean when you really look at it — but as Joan points out, it can be very hard to maintain in the world of everyday stresses.

  2. Mary, Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog. Writing this post after a few weeks of chaos here at home was just the right medicine to get myself back on track and living in the moment.

  3. Oh Joan, did you spend the morning following me around?? I can’t tell you how familiar your scenario sounds to me and how much I desire to hang on to that lovely sense of peace I feel when I manage to be “mindful.”
    You’ve given me some good reminders to keep me on track and help me over the roadblocks life often puts in the way.

    Lovely post.

    • Becca, It’s wonderful knowing there is someone else out doing the same things I do. I don’t know who is following whom, but some day we’ll have to meet in person and share more things we enjoy! I have a feeling we have a lot in common, down to each having two little dogs.

      • Mary Gottschalk says

        Becca .. thanks for stopping by … it seems that you too are a fan of Joan’s.

  4. I’ve known Joan through her blog writing and follow her on Facebook, but this post adds another dimension- her willingness to show vulnerability, one of the most appealing features of this snapshot of her life.

    I believe mindfulness is a daily, moment-by-moment exercise. And we need constant reminders like this one. Right now my mind is telling me my body is tired from the Pilates class this morning. I need a nap–after I run an errand! Thank you, Mary, for hosting Joan today.

    • Marian, thanks so much for your wonderful words. I took a nap today, too. I could have kept working, but knew I’d enjoy my evening more if I had a brief lie-down.

      • Mary Gottschalk says

        Marian / Joan. Perhaps mindfulness would not be so hard to maintain if I could learn to take afternoon naps …. to simply stop doing whatever I’m doing, even if I don’t actually fall asleep.

  5. Wonderful post, Joan. Worry is exactly what takes me out of the moment. Thanks for this reminder. Especially timely as I head out to a book talk. I really do want to enjoy this moment.

    • Carol, I’ve always been a worry wart but learning to be mindful has helped me immensely.

      I hope your book talk went well. You have exciting times ahead.

  6. Joan, your writing always have a way of bringing me back to the reality of what matters in life. Thanks for a beautiful post, and thanks also to Mary for hosting.

    • What a great compliment, Candace. I love to write about things that I need to be reminded about and mindfulness is at the top of the list. I’ m so glad you enjoyed this piece.

      • Mary Gottschalk says

        Candace … thanks so much for stopping by … I feel very lucky to have Joan’s words of wisdom on my blog today.

  7. What a thoughtful, well-written essay, Joan. How easy it is to get swept up in the busy details of life that take us away from the peace and serenity of living in the moment. It takes a great deal of focus and determination to be able to remain mindful and open to what each moment has to offer,You rewriting brings me right there with you. Thank you for sharing and thank you, Mary for hosting Joan.

    • Thanks, Kathy, for your kind words. Being mindful is what I am trying to bring to every aspect of my life including my writing. I think of you these days as you wend your way to publication and wonder how you are doing with staying present. I imagine it can be very difficult.

      • Mary Gottschalk says

        Kathy, Your comment reminds me that part of my challenge is that I live so much in my head … I’m always analyzing instead of just observing. I was better at living in the moment when I was out on the Pacific Ocean for a year — I had nothing I had to accomplish and no place I had to be. That moment was pretty much all there ways. I wish I could replicate it on land.

  8. Thank you Joan for the message, and Mary for hosting it. It is a fitting reminder for all of us and a fitting tie-in with A Fitting Place.

  9. Mary Gottschalk says

    Sharon … thanks for flagging the connection between Joan’s lovely essay and my novel!