I sat by a Georgian window on the first floor, drinking manuka tea.  Through the glass a pile of dirty scaffolding clips lay in the sun.  I imagined they would feel hot and heavy in the hand, if I could have touched them.

The tea had a honey colour and a sweet flavour.  At the tables around me were wealthy-looking people of various nationalities.  Setting the cup down again, the sun cast a bright triangle inside it.   Swirling patterns of dissolving sugar appeared, and above them a tiny black flake drifted slowly then spun sharply.  As it drifted, twirled, then drifted again, so did it’s tiny but sharply-focussed shadow on the curve of the cup whenever it crossed the light.

A little bubble appeared.  It seemed to stop when the beam caught it and cast, instead of a shadow, a tiny pearl of light even brighter than the warm glow around it.

I had entered Fortnum and Mason’s on a whim to buy gifts for my family in America.  I fly out tomorrow.  I was on Piccadilly to visit the Sensing Spaces Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts.  I intended to let my imagination run free; to experience, rather than consciously learn or analyse (which I often do, sometimes obsessively).  I walked away from the world of Architecture a few years back in order to get hands-on with wood.   But now I fancied dipping my toe back in.

The battery on my camera phone ran out at the exhibition.  By the time I got the voucher for a free tea at Fortnum and Mason’s tea room I was practicing the art of being fully present to my surroundings, without taking photos.

The cup of tea was the most beautiful thing I’d seen all day.  And I’m glad I couldn’t photograph it.  Seeing everything through the lens of a camera puts another barrier between myself and real life.

There are too many unnecessary barriers already.  The vast majority of my thought-life is spent in the past, future, or other imaginary realms.  This is unfortunate.  The quality of my thought-life dictates the quality of my whole experience of life.  I think there are many others like me – often disconnected from reality.  Here’s what we need to remember:

Real abundant life can always, only, ever, exist in the present moment.

Everything else is an illusion, not necessarily unreal but, as regards the past, it is not real anymore, and regarding the future, it is almost without fail different to what we fear or imagine it will be – unless our fears or imaginings have become so real to us that we cannot help but bring them about.

And yet our minds so often drift to anywhere but where we are.

There is fertile and rewarding ground for our attention and imagination right in front of us.  It is NOW and it is HERE.  Too often, for me, taking a photo puts my thinking back in the abstract world, recording something for the future, or to share with someone else, instead of making the most of it now.  When I obsess about recording it for later I steal it from now.

What if I was fully present every moment, every place where I find myself?  Not refusing to dream or plan (those are good things) but always willing to uncover the joy and beauty latent in the present moment, or to enter fully into the sadness of the present suffering.  To be willing both to respond and to act upon the present flow of real life with creativity and love.  Neither to control nor be controlled by circumstance, simply to embrace it and be part of it.  Now. Not when I’ve learned enough.  Not when I’m feeling at my best.  Now.  Because here is life, and it keeps moving, and when it’s gone it’s gone.

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