73: River Flows in You

73: River Flows in You

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less

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River Flows in You

Life is available only in the present moment. If you abandon the present moment you cannot live the moments of your daily life deeply.

~Thich Nhat Hanh

I looked around the tiny quaint chapel. It seemed like the perfect venue for the music school’s spring recital. The high ceiling with a beautiful glass painting, the gigantic columns that arched gracefully, the dim lights, the magnificent altar and the grand piano that stood on the platform in front of the altar all added a touch of surreal ambience to the recital. It was as if the music to be played by the students was to be an offering to the gods.

I brimmed with excitement that was laced with a touch of pride, and yet as a mother only could, also experienced the butterflies that flitted in my daughter’s tummy. She was to perform an exquisite composition called “River Flows in You” on the piano. How I loved that melodious piece. I eagerly looked forward to her performance.

I quickly updated the status on my iPhone: “At a church waiting for my talented kid to perform,” switched it to the vibrate mode and looked through its camera to make sure we could get a good angle and a clear view. After all, I would have to post a video of the performance on Facebook for my family and friends.

I was glad we had arrived a few minutes early. At least we had the time to choose our seats and soak in the serene atmosphere. I voiced my opinion on the excellent location to my husband. He mumbled in agreement while he keenly looked into his phone to check the latest scores of the Augusta National tournament. He was a little miffed that I had chosen to leave home just as Tiger Woods was teeing off. If only he paid as much attention to me as he did to Tiger Woods’ swing. “A birdie!” he reported. I shook my head. Some things never change. I went back to looking at my phone and checked the time. I had two minutes more until the recital so clicked on the Facebook icon. Fifteen notifications and seven updates? Already? My status update had already received twelve likes and three comments from around the world. Ooh, I felt loved and popular. I proceeded to the home page to check the news feed.

The first feed — a friend who had changed her profile picture. I was amazed. “Wow! Did she look hot! How could a mom of three young kids possibly find the time and energy to work out and stay in shape?” I felt lousy about myself.

The self-pity was quickly overcome with hope when I saw the next feed. Guess Facebook was reading my mind. Another friend had shared a blog post: “How to get rid of stubborn belly fat in ten days!” I would definitely have to read that when I got home.

Next post — 215 pictures of a friend vacationing in Bali. I was awestruck. Another vacation? The crystal blue waters and sandy beaches looked mesmerizing but I didn’t have time to look through the entire album. Honestly, I was a little envious too. It was baffling that she could vacation in an exotic locale so often.

The next update was a post on a terror attack accompanied by photographs of orphaned children. How could people hate and kill in the name of God? I felt utter disgust and rage for the perpetrators of terror and violence.

Next was a post on the plane crash in the Alps. The article stated that it was a deliberate attempt by the co-pilot. Sadness for the innocent victims of these incidents filled my heart.

My husband nudged me gently to let me know the show had begun. I switched back to the video mode to record my daughter and quickly realized that I was no longer brimming with excitement. Too many emotions had made their way through my mind and heart in a matter of seconds. I mechanically turned on the red button and watched through the lens, all the time making sure I was getting the best angle. It didn’t seem too clear. Maybe zooming in would help. I was still adjusting the zoom feature when the phone informed me that the storage capacity was exhausted. I was exasperated!

I glanced at my husband and saw that he had put away his phone to listen intently with his eyes closed. Rather than prod him to start recording I chose to put away my phone too. And that’s when I experienced it… a soul stirring similar to what I felt when I heard church bells ring. Up until now I had watched the performance from behind the lens for the benefit of my Facebook audience and it had diluted the experience. It was only when I put the phone away that I engaged my senses fully in the experience. Only then did I notice my daughter’s deft fingers flawlessly caress the piano. Only then did I pay attention to her intense expression, a reflection of her focus on the beautiful composition. Only then did I experience the joy she felt as the melody flowed from her heart to reverberate all through the chapel. It was a memorable experience that was captured by my heart, and not by a gadget. How apt that she had chosen to play “River Flows in You” because that day it truly did.

~Vidya

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