Sheila can walk along, apparently ‘living in the moment’, as we are encouraged to do, and cooing happily about all the splendid flowers she can see in the front gardens that we pass - and step blindly into a dog turd. I, on the other hand, will notice little of the horticultural beauty around me - other than the vague appreciation of a sense of pleasing and varied colour - but will notice not only the dog turd, but also the misplaced paving stone that Sheila will trip over next.
Which of us is the more aware of our environment?
You might say, ‘Neither’, with some justification, though each of us would argue soundly that what we notice is of the greater import.
In terms of survival, I think I would justifiably win, as I am less likely to slip, trip, and crack my skull or break my arm; Sheila, would say that I just don’t notice things. We just notice different things.
If I am to enjoy a cloud-scape or an array of bougainvillea, then I find it both safer (and easier to keep my balance) if I stop walking and enjoy what is to be seen. At night, when I take the dogs out for a last discreet moment before bed, I frequently look at the night sky - but I hang on to the back of a garden chair whilst doing so, rather than risk the dizziness that can accompany such an exercise.
‘Living in the moment’ is something we ae encouraged to do, in some forms of clinical psychological therapies. CBT (Clinical Behavioural Therapy) is one; practising ‘Mindfulness’ is another. I once had to savour a square of chocolate in my mouth without biting it or deliberately sucking it hard - just let it dissolve and notice all the flavours. The darn thing lasted about 15 minutes, and I was heartily glad when it had gone. I then had another piece and crunched it happily. I don’t think ‘mindfulness’ and I got along all that well.
We are told that animals - especially dogs - live in the moment, and are totally focussed at all times on the now. To a large extent, and with some experience of years of dog observation, I would say that is usually true - but that doesn’t include their unerring ability to know exactly when dinner time is - and start reminding you of it at least half an hour before - or take account of their clearly chasing rabbits or squirrels in their dreams - which can result in you being kicked hard and repeatedly, if you happen to be close to your dog when he or she is dreaming of such an escapade.
Spiritually, though, it is not so easy either; to practice the presence of God in the now is an exercise in constant spiritual awareness that various religious orders of monks and nuns claim to pursue. I am sure that some achieve it, but I am also sure that in order to do so, you would have to be unoccupied with all other concerns, such as biological walking hazards or sidewalk construction errors.
Perhaps Sheila is able to do this more than I, as our ‘head Gardner’ and also the (currently solo) church Gardner; after all, it has been said, ‘One is nearer God’s heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth’ (Dorothy Frances Gurney 1858-1932.)
Personally, I - (as a man) - am unable to successfully multi-task, to the extent that I can be totally aware of the presence of God in the moment, and be doing something else. Nor can I listen to music and read a book, but I can operate and listen to music - odd. I think that is why we need moments of solitude and peace for our ‘quiet times’. It is also a mark of respect to give our attention fully to God - and not be having to negotiate trip and sliding obstacles whilst trying to pray.