There is no place better to learn how to live in the now than in the company of a child. This can only happen when I let go of trying to teach him, correct him, and schedule his movements.
We stand at the railing of the deck at the back of the house on the island. I hold him in my arms to bring his eyes to my eye level supported by the railing.
I see the green strip of the golf course, separated from the ocean beyond by the sand dunes and the sea oats bent by the late morning breeze.
He points to the mauve flowers of the crape myrtle growing close to the deck railing and says “phoo” incomplete for phool, which means flower in Urdu. His face wreathed in smiles and a question in his eyes as he introduces the discovery of the phool to me. He looks at me as if he has unearthed a treasure. He speaks with his eyes and wants to know if I have ever seen such beauty and wants to share it with me.
Then we just stand quietly. I watch the waves coming in and going out like a line dance the movement repeated with perfect accuracy. The white crests kissing the sand remind me of the Kaaba during Hajj where perfectly lined rows of people in white go down in unison to touch the earth with their foreheads in submission to their Lord.
He is looking up now and pointing at the sky, with a smile and a sparkle in his eye. He looks at me with a smile, which has a question “Did you see that?”
His face is suffused with happiness; his eyes kindle with awe and his body language expresses gratitude and wonder at this special event. What is this event? I look up to where he is pointing.
Flying or more aptly described as gliding Just above the edge of the top of the trees dotted along the strip of the golf course is the V formation of a squadron of brown pelicans. Their wings spread out, their heads proud and erect, focused on their goal.
The leader is at the point of the V, steering the squadron with precision and equanimity. He veers high enough to be just above the trees, low enough to keep the ocean in line of vision registering the untold possibilities for lunch within it at the right time.
The lead Pelican neither breaks the formation suddenly because he spots a fish in the ocean that he wants to snack on, nor does he keep going beyond the time or limit set for the next ritual of life. He is their leader; he knows their needs and their limits. They trust him wherever he is taking them. The rest of the brown pelicans in the V formation of the squadron spread their wings enough such that each has wind beneath their wings and are at a safe but close distance from their companion ahead and behind.
We do not see them arguing to get ahead to dethrone the leader or to gossip against one another, for if they did so it would break the harmony of the beautiful swoop of their flight, and they would have to redouble their effort to fly alone.
Why can the birds do that which we humans cannot? They are in harmony and we are not. They have a leader who looks out for their benefit, and they obey him. and we usually do not. Each bird in the V has the self-discipline and cooperation with the squadron so as to keep an optimal though close distance from the bird in front and the one behind. None of them stop suddenly or leave the formation because they don’t agree with where they are going or on a whim drop out to stop for an ill timed snack before lunch.
Watching the wonder in his eyes, the happiness in his face, the smile curving his lips and his raised hand pointing to the birds it dawns on me that this is the true expression of appreciation, praise, gratitude and awe of the Divine all rolled into one.
This is the true epitome of living in the moment…
How often I have stood at the railing of the verandah looking out at the ocean and after the first few seconds my brains move out of the moment and becomes busy reliving what happened yesterday and regretting the mistakes past, and mentally computing what needs to be done next. Sometimes remembering a piece of gossip and making a mental note to share it with someone I know who will enjoy it.
Meanwhile the birds disappear, behind a curve of trees. He slips from my arms onto the deck and makes his way towards something. At his destination is a single fallen dry leaf that he picks up carefully as if it was fragile hand-blown Venetian glass and looks at it in wonder, curiosity and joy. He turns it around in his hands feeling the texture, pulling it in different direction and then discovers another one…………..
There is no need for plastic toys, fake noisemakers or stuffed animals here. Allah has provided our children with all the awe producing elements in nature.
The missing piece is our time.
We are reluctant to live in the now as we have accumulated so many objects which we have to clean, polish, protect and store in cabinets and display on shelves leaving no time to look, appreciate and express gratitude to the true gifts of The Divine.
In order to accept nature as the biggest and most intriguing playground provided by Allah Subhanawataala for us, we have to unload all the other inanimate objects that clutter our homes, our brains and our hearts.
A sunbeam falls on the baby holding the leaf, bathing him in the blessings and love from the Almighty Himself, acknowledging his joy and gratitude with a Divine smile.
Allah Subhanawataala says in the Quran:
أَوَلَمْ يَرَوْا إِلَى الطَّيْرِ فَوْقَهُمْ صَافَّاتٍ وَيَقْبِضْنَ ۚ مَا يُمْسِكُهُنَّ إِلَّا الرَّحْمَـٰنُ ۚ إِنَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ بَصِيرٌ ﴿١٩﴾
[67:19] Yusuf AliDo they not observe the birds above them, spreading their wings and folding them in? None can uphold them except (Allah) Most Gracious: Truly (Allah) Most Gracious: Truly it is He that watches over all things.