I swim for exercise almost daily. Usually while I am swimming, I am either formulating a “to do” list in my head, or plotting and planning some work, household or kid-related project. The other morning, as I entered the pool, I happened to notice that it was an exceptionally beautiful day, and I was struck by an unusual appreciation of my surroundings. I decided to try something different with my swimming time. For those 45 minutes, I made a concerted effort to be “in the moment” and focus on what was around me. For a short time, I wanted to just “be.” Most of us (including and especially my family) do far too little of that, because we are so busy and are always running from one thing to the next.
When making a concerted effort to not let my mind wander, I was amazed at the things I noticed and appreciated. The chirping birds made such beautiful music. The sun shining on the water formed pretty twinkling prisms of light at the bottom of the pool. The recent rain left the air smelling fresh and clean. As my body glided through the water, I felt strong and noticed that each time my arm chopped through the water, a trickle of bubbles was formed and the stronger my stroke, the more the bubbles. The colors were so vibrant – the blue sky, the white clouds, the green leaves. The water was cool and soothing. Using my senses, I felt strong, powerful, healthy and more spiritual than ever before. I don’t really consider myself to be a very spiritual person and am not even sure what it means. We are “involved” in our temple and Judaism and “observant” in the way that works for us. But when we are at synagogue, in a service or celebrating a holiday at home, I’m not sure if I’ve ever really felt “spiritual.” That morning I began to understand what that word means to me. What’s more, I loved the feeling.
Being in the moment and taking time to smell the roses and appreciate the world around us is part of Judaism’s teachings and beliefs. In Foundations of Torah 2:2, Maimonides stated that the way a person can come to reverence and love of God is through recognizing His enormous wisdom as contained in nature. Moreover, Psalm 104, which is recited every morning by Orthodox Jews, describes the ongoing acts of God in bringing the world into existence. In this lengthy blessing, which extols the greatness of God as seen in the various aspects of nature such as the sun, the wind and the water, we read “How great are Your works, O God. You make them all with wisdom and the world is full of Your possessions.” (Psalms 104:24). This blessing teaches us that we have the ability to see the greatness of God and nature and, when we do so, we are being spiritual.
As parents, we teach our children right from wrong, show them how to be independent thinkers and guide them as they develop their own thoughts, beliefs and ways of behaving. Demonstrating to them how important it is to live life to the fullest, to take time to smell the roses and appreciate the nature around us and to embrace some degree of spirituality is one of life’s lessons that will be important to impart to them. As with most things, the most effective lessons are taught by example.
I fondly recall shortly before the ceremony on our wedding day, Marlon’s (now 95-year-old) grandmother said to me “I’m so glad Marlon found you. My grandson is a great man, but he needs to be reminded to take time to smell the roses, and you will do that.” Sometimes I, too, get caught up in the busy-ness of life and forget to do it myself, to remind him to do so and to teach our children about how important it is. Too soon that morning’s swim ended, leaving me feeling relaxed, refreshed and energized and with the momentous realization that I had discovered my spirituality and the reminder that our family is going to make time to smell the roses!