My cup runneth over

Oct 13, 2009 at 9:29 p.m. ET

Contributor Jennifer Louden asks herself: Will she ever appreciate life enough, will she ever be truly present? How can she capture the holiness of watching her child grow? The Buddhists teach us: Don't grasp. It is in the grasping that we diminish the moment. Autumn and Thanksgiving seems a fine time to remember that. Here she urges us to take some time for reflection.


Summer, with all her agrarian extravagance, pulled out the stops. One month ago tomatoes were spewing from our garden. Gargantuan white peaches crowded the farmer's market, succulent as Renoir nudes.

Yet autumn edged onto the scene. Teetering between the extravagance of summer and the crumbling of the leaves, early autumn is a trembling time, threaded with the knowledge time is passing, that this moment is all we have.

Perhaps I'm more aware of autumn's haunted temperament this year because my daughter walked through the doors of her new school last month, putting her lunch in her cubby, starting kindergarten.

How did that happen?

There are times when a season brings to me the exacting, exhilarating face of time, presses it down on me, forcing me to notice the wild geese passing overhead, forcing me to realize that my father is turning 80, that Chris and I have been married ten years.

These moments are terrifying. I want to turn away, my fear of change and death making my mouth dry. Yet these moments are also the thin place the Celts speak of, where the boundary between heaven and earth meet. Mortality and love blend. I gulp at the bittersweet taste but by it's very nature, I can't drink much. Most of it runs down my chin. My cup runneth over. Will I ever appreciate life enough, will I ever be truly present? How can I capture this holiness of watching my child grow? How many times can I cradle her body, a living peach, taut, impudent, sturdy, and pray to myself, "Remember this."

Of course, the Buddhists teach us so well: Don't grasp. It is in the grasping that we diminish the moment.

Early fall seems a fine time to remember that.

Time for reflection

A few mindful questions for the month, from my new book.

What intuitive knowing is rustling around in the back of my heart, lurking on the edge of my knowing?

What do you know or perhaps have even said aloud that you aren't now paying attention to? Is there something about your work? Or perhaps there is something bugging you, tickling you, about your relationship with your child, your best friend, your partner or lover? Your health? Your retirement nest egg? What is slipping through the conscious cracks because you're are too busy or too afraid to see it?

What am I grateful for?
What am I not grateful for?
What do I feel like I should be grateful for but can't muster up the juice?
Gratitude is a powerful and ancient spiritual practice but it must not be done in a sentimental fashion.

How do I feel about the choices I've been making lately?
Am I spending my time in a way that feels invigorating and true to my unfolding?
Deciding it is possible to create your life is all well and good but then it comes down to the nitty-gritty: how am I spending my time? Spend some time in the next few days focusing not on the big ticket items (what you spend the big chunks of time at) but instead look at the "connective" times, the moments between work and sleep, children and private time. What are you choosing there? Where is the time going?

How can I co-create with the season outside my windows?
How can the earth's wisdom help me create my life?
Jan asked this question and came up ice skating. Freida remembered a new year's ceremony from her mother's village in Spain. Sara sat outside and asked herself the question over several mornings. "The things I came up with were subtle: making a fall vegetable stew, taking a silent walk in the old cemetery near my house, mostly a sense of taking in the changes happening around me. It made me feel rooted and aware."