moments: savoring vs. capturing

the presidential inauguration happened to fall on a work day for me this time around. between things, here and there, i caught glimpses of the motorcades, the swearing in, the parade. as the week went on i watched all the recaps and perused all the photos and two images have captured my attention. one is of the president, lingering at a doorway, observing the setting he has just moved through, seemingly “taking in” the moment for a remarkably long time. the other is of the president and first lady dancing at the evening’s ball. what was noticeable to me, however, was not the dancing couple but rather the sea of i-phones and other screened devices being used by those in attendance to capture the moment.

the juxtaposition of these two vignettes has me thinking about the way in which i experience moments.

whenever i have had the great good fortune of being with someone right before they accepted an honor, walked down the aisle, first met their baby, set foot in a new land, attempted their first day without the help of a coping mechanism that has hurt them, or opened themselves to any significant experience, i have encouraged them to notice. once they are noticing, i have suggested that they savor. notice, savor, repeat. for, if there is one thing i know to be both increasingly true and rare in this life, it is that there is nothing like savoring a moment so that it’s potency can live beyond the limits of time and space. 

when my son was quite young my dad taught him to savor. they practiced with all manner of treats: hot chocolate, gummy bears, m and m’s. they’d see who could make each bite last longest and they’d compare notes about what they experienced as they savored. what savoring does, you see, is force you to notice things in a new way. when you slurp down a cup of hot chocolate without intentionally bringing yourself (and your senses) to the experience, you miss all the subtle yet beautiful things about this magical beverage. you forego recognizing how your hands feel against the warm porcelain of a steaming cup, you miss out on the silly annoyance of the steam fogging your glasses or the spoon you used to stir clanging against your cheek as you lift the mug to your lips. the smell is never registered nor are the shapes made my the frothy bubbles skimming the surface of the liquid. when you’re slamming versus savoring you might taste the beverage, but you sure aren’t noticing much about it.

when we savor we are experiencing the now, the moment. when we bring all of our senses to that moment our experience gains a new level of significance. when we stop to notice, really notice, how we feel or what we are doing or what is going on around us, we engage accordingly. our awareness prompts us to extend the experience if it is a pleasant one and to end it if not. to bask in it if it’s life affirming and to learn from it if it is not. if it’s a moment we hope to remember, savoring it can help us to “bank” some it’s significance and to call it up later. further, the process of investing in the sensual experience of the moment, helps us to honor our full selves by attending to more than just our uni-dimensional physical, emotional, or intellectual states of being. a moment wherein we are loved or known or connected intimately with can be experienced in so many ways. if we savor it we reap a benefit now and attend to the experience in such a way that we can call it up later and benefit again. to remember how it feels (and smells and looks and sounds) to be loved (or heard or known) can help us feel loved (or heard or known) even after the moment has passed.

think of the last moment you experienced that made life feel meaningful. what do you remember about the environment you were in? was it warm or cold, noisy or quiet? were you alone or with others? what made the moment matter? what did you feel? were sounds or tastes or smells or sights involved in ways that had an impact? if so, what were they? savoring includes all this and more. it includes all of us, fully alive, present in a moment.

capturing a moment, in comparison, differs greatly. capturing feels greedy. it takes hostage. it computes an experience in a rigid, uni-dimensional way. it archives and is “pocketable.” photos and videos are the best example of captured moments, presenting an accurate record of an experience exactly as it physically occurred. there is nothing inherently wrong with capturing moments and, at times, it’s meaningful to do just that. frequently, a glance at a photo can help you recall that which was savor-able about the moment. at other times, however, we are so caught up in capturing that we forget to experience. to be present with our full sensual selves. to savor. grabbing for our phones and frantically fumbling for the “record” button keeps us from noticing, in rich detail, the complexity of the moment at hand. as a result, we end up with lots of photos and relatively few fully embodied memories. 

and so, as we embark upon a new week full of experiences to be had, i encourage you to notice moments large and small. to pay attention to feelings deep and shallow. to smell smells, to see sights, to hear sounds. to linger and notice and observe. to be fully in the photos and videos you are taking. to pay attention to how it feels to be known or not. to embody the love that you feel for others and to recognize how it feels to be loved. and then to savor these experiences. to make them last long. and to create savor-able experiences for others in return. in so doing we build memories more bold and rich than any merely captured image could ever contain.


official [person you respect] day

i went to a retirement party on thursday and can’t get it out of my mind. perhaps others have gone to party after party honoring friends’ or relatives’ years of dedication to tasks or roles, but i have not. i’ve been to a few. i’ve spoken at a few. and, every time, they deeply impact me.

retirement is something that only some folks actually do. anymore, by retirement age, many people have worked in multiple places or have held the kinds of roles and positions that don’t automatically qualify one for a work place sponsored retirement party. for other individuals, the positions they have held are within the home or family or sector of the work place where public recognition doesn’t happen. these people don’t have a formal time of honoring when they leave their position or post. in direct contrast, retirement parties provide amazing space for an important process of recognizing someone not so much for what they are leaving, but, rather, for who they are and who they are becoming.

i wish that everyone were able to receive such recognition.

the individual whose retirement i got to celebrate this week was being honored for 28 years of service as a county health commissioner. i have served along side this man in a relatively intense volunteer position for nearly 3 years. on thursday, in the short 45 minutes that his friends and colleagues spoke to him about what his presence has meant in their lives, i learned of a rich depth of experience that i knew nothing about. at the end of the formal part of the celebration the day was officially declared as gary oxman day in multnomah county and, at this, my heart swelled.

what would it be like if everyone were able to be given an official day of honor? what if each of us chose, at random and frequent intervals, someone to gift with a “retirement opportunity” of sorts? perhaps it would offer the following:

1 a chance for someone in our lives to be recognized for the tasks they perform every day that frequently go unnoticed but are vital to at least that persons’ survival. it may not matter to you that your brother carefully tends to his yard everyday. it may not even make sense. it may be, however, that it is deeply meaningful to him (and possibly even interesting or beneficial to others) and having it noticed would honor his sense of self discipline and follow through. the same might be said of the million small and large tasks the people in your life do every day to help them move through this difficult task called living.

2 the space for that person to reflect on how they have lived their life to this point with the commensurate opportunity to make changes. i’m not exaggerating when i say that every retirement party i’ve ever been to (with the exception of one) has included the honoree making some kind of statement about a regret. might it be possible that, if we took time to honor what someone is doing well or right they might be spurred to think through what they might like to do differently? mr rogers wrote a profoundly important song lyric when he wrote, “i’m proud of you, i’m proud of you, i hope that you are proud of you too.” when a person is gifted with pride (or love or recognition or honor) from someone else it often causes them to turn their thoughts toward how they feel about themselves. in so doing one is given an opportunity to reflect upon that which they might like to change. when this happens in the context of another’s support they can feel a sense of empowerment to make changes in a way they might not otherwise.

3 an expansion of our own sense of possibility. there is nothing better for our own development than allowing the greatness of others to inspire us. i’m not speaking of the kind of recognition of others that focus’ exclusively on their external accomplishments and that we use to beat ourselves up for being less-than. i’m talking about noticing in others the things that make them unique, special, a gift to the world. this is especially true when we find these traits in those who we would normally consider “less-than” ourselves in some way or another (age, position, appearance, status, spiritual belief, etc). humility and awe and vulnerability  are good for the soul.

4 a world where the focus is on colleaguiality and friendship more than competition and comparison. a favorite book title of mine is i love you the purplest, which focus’ on a mother’s love for her children and how she can’t compare her love or quantify it. my friend’s impressive and honor-worthy accomplishments in dealing with major public health crisis’ does not need to be what i measure my own success against nor do i need to use it to order my social circle or rank my connections. i can simply love my friends and associates in all their own “unique-est” ways and work diligently to be the most “doreen-est” person i can be.

i’m entering into this new week with the intention of declaring mini moments of honor for all the people in my life. i may not be able to declare entire days or plan elaborate celebrations but i can provide words and gestures that recognize the dedicated and unique contributions that those around me make every day. mini opportunities for reflection, connection, recognition, and meaningful encounter that make their lives better...and mine. 


finding the good

i am inspired today by the action of high school students in iowa who, in response to reading about cyber bullying, created a twitter feed dedicated to affirming their classmates and teachers. “it’s real easy to find the nice things in people instead of the bad things,” stated 17 year old jeremiah anthony who initiated the “@westhighbros” twitter group when interviewed by the national press.

i  first came across this news story on a day when people had gone out of their way to tell me how much i suck. a neighbor honked angrily as he drove by my house that morning, irritated by the excessive number of cars belonging to college aged visitors at our house. the person i parked next to at target felt that i hadn’t left enough space between my car and theirs and left an empty envelope with “NICE PARKING” scribbled in sharpie under my windshield wiper. an acquaintance was eager to report how hurt and angry i’d made her friend with something i had said in a blog entry. my server at lunch actually rolled her eyes and yanked the menu away from me when i asked for my salad to be served sans meat. and, to top the day off, a professional contact accused me of things i had never done based on a conversation with an unreliable source. it had not been a banner day for people finding the good in me. many hadn’t, and they’d expended energy making sure i knew this.

this has me wondering, in a world where we expend energy hyper communicating, how and what messages are we sending? our communiques are so often impulsive, removed from human contact, and initiated with no follow through or consequence. we have great power to help or hurt those with whom we interact and we have the bandwidth to interact with more people than ever. we can publicize praise or criticism to huge audiences at the push of a button. are we aware, however, of the awesomeness and complexity of this new relational landscape?

we’ve all seen how a photo or status update posted impulsively can end a career, impact relationships, and generally humiliate the subject. a review posted in anger can have a damning and far reaching effect on a business or product. in a time where we use written words more than ever our words also have a greater heft, farther reach, and deeper impact than ever...and yet, so frequently, we’re unaware of this.

the trouble is, the present and prevailing forms and venues of communication have sprung up and evolved without any guiding principles of what is healthy and appropriate. we’ve simply let the medium shape the message and have tried to keep up. we feel as though we must “keep up with the times,” requiring us to demand of ourselves thicker skins, more “likes,” and the consumption of as many reviews as we can possibly take in. so much for requiring “effective” communication. so much for measured, sometimes slow and laborious, risk-taking person-to-person communing. so much for discerning the integrity and intent of the message and its sender.

instead we rely on push button intimacy built on full disclosure/exposure at the viewing of a profile. we no longer share a little, get some feedback, discern the trustworthiness of the other, and determine whether to share more. we throw praise and criticism out widely and loudly before considering a nuanced and more reasoned path of communication. we rarely take an opportunity to consider a source. benign comments turn to hurtful ones when the context of vocal inflection and non verbal cues aren’t available. misunderstandings are elevated to out in out fights when undertaken in the world of social media. tweets can yell and facebook posts can scream and silence can be the loudest and most painful form of communication in today’s social economy.

we live in a time where we have the opportunity to weigh-in on nearly everything. from product and entertainment reviews to contributing our two cents about someone’s face book photo or status, we can constantly feel as though our commentary is being solicited and will be useful. this gives us a sense of heady importance. the problem is that sometimes our desire to feel useful and important can outweigh our recollection of the common decencies and principles that effectively moderate healthy human relationships. principles like taking responsibility for our own emotions, speaking truthfully and with integrity, listening, making wise choices about who to trust, thinking critically, listening, taking responsibility, integrity, listening, taking responsibility, integrity, liste...you get the point.

and so i ask you, in what way(s) are you harnessing the power of the tool on your desk or in your pocket to be used toward the building up, informing, educating, and loving of people? the scope and reach of the tools at our fingertips provide us with communication “super powers” and it is up to us to make sure that we use those powers for good and not evil.

might you live a day as a “spreading good will wonder woman” or “super encouraging super man?” could you commit to a pause between your impulse to comment from a place of impulsivity, anger, or irritation and respond, instead, from a well considered calm? might you tweet about stories that educate, encourage, or build up rather than embarrass or tear down? might you emulate a 17 year old high school junior, who, even from the midst of high school snarkiness, is finding the good.

to check out the original news story go to: