Are you sleeping on what life has to offer?

Published 4:05 pm Saturday, May 13, 2017

One of my favorite places in the world is Natural Bridge. The view is astounding; I like to watch the seasons pass from that vantage point.

Many geologists believe Natural Bridge to be over a million years old, formed when softer sandstone fell away from the rock stratum beneath it, forming a triangular shape. Then, over thousands of years, erosion cut through the ridge to form an arch 78 feet across.

To fully process the magnificent scope of Natural Bridge, you have to view it from the bottom, which involves winding down Fat Man’s Staircase, and squeezing yourself through this narrow trail down the backside of the arch. This rock fracture is only about two feet wide, so it is single file all the way.

A few weekends ago, my family spent the day hiking in the Red River Gorge, then rode the skylift up to Natural Bridge. I found myself in the Fat Man’s Staircase behind a young boy, maybe 9 years old. He was moving very slowly. I assumed he was simply enjoying the cool; the narrow trench is always 10 degrees cooler than the outside temperature and it was a hot day.

We finally emerged and I noticed his turtle speed was due to the fact that he was texting. As I watched this kid for the next few minutes, I noticed he never once looked up from his device. He was standing in view of this geological miracle and he was missing it.

With his head bent over his phone, he photo-bombed yet another family, walking directly into the father as someone took a family pic. The mother and teacher in me saw the teachable moment. I walked over to him and tapped him on the shoulder. “Huh?” He glanced at me, mouth agape.

“Look up,” I said, smiling encouragement. He stared, still confused.

“Put. Your. Phone. Down. And. Look. Up.” I repeated, in what Izzie calls my “Don’t Poke Mama Bear” voice.

Finally, the kid looked up at this astounding view.

“Meh,” he said, shrugging, and returned to his phone. He actually shrugged.

The universe handed him a wondrous experience and he couldn’t be bothered. He was completely asleep to the miracle right before his eyes.

It’s so easy to be spiritually asleep, to move through our days on autopilot.

Am I walking blindly through the miracles of my own life? When God shows up in my life, will I be dialed in enough to notice? When nature hands me the gift of awe, will I give her my full attention?

I try every day to see the miraculous around me, but it’s so much easier to check out, to fall asleep at the wheel of life, to let distractions fill my minutes, to worship at the alter of busy instead of slowing down to savor the richness of the truth beneath the distractions.

Henry David Thoreau believes that, “only one in a hundred million [is awake] to a poetic or divine life. To be awake is to be alive.”

It’s like watching young children explore their world. They see everything trough a lens of awe and love, their perceptions not yet clouded by judgment or distrust.

There is a story about three men who met the Buddha on the road. They instantly recognized that there was something special about him.

“Are you a god?” they asked.

“No,” he smiled.

“Are you a wizard?”

“No,” he smiled again.

“Are you supernatural?”

“No.”

“Then what are you?” they demanded.

“I am awake,” he answered.

So how do we awaken to a life of wonder? It’s as simple as slowing down and breathing deeply. Success arises from any action repeated many times. As often as I remember, I pause and take a deep breath. That connects me, via my senses, to what’s happening around me in that moment.

I have to constantly remind myself to stop doing so much and carve out moments to simply be. The more I do this, the more I open myself to the beautiful around me.

In this state, I notice things my busy, distracted mind misses. The smile of a stranger. The scent of fresh-baked bread. The sound of children laughing. The taste of cold water on a hot day. Wet grass under my feet.

Life is short. Grace and awe usually lie not in the enormous moments of accomplishment, but in the quieter, holier moments of the seemingly mundane.

I want to be awake for those.

Erin Smith is the owner of the OM place in Winchester, the author of “Sensible Wellness for Women” and the online host of a yoga and mindfulness channel for Eppic Films. She wants everyone to make friends with meditation, eat real food, move their bodies and hit the pillow a little earlier. When she’s not standing on her head, she enjoys being a wife, mother, dancer, reader, flower sniffer, guitar player and wine drinker. Send her a shout out at erin@theOMplace.net or play along at www.theOMplaceChannel.com