Appreciating Life—Just As It Is

Appreciating Life—Just As It Is

I’m stuck in an elevator with a copy of Lion’s Roar magazine in hand. Pema Chodron graces the cover, offering wisdom on: “How to appreciate your life—JUST AS IT IS.”

Yup, I say as I press every button on the elevator panel. JUST AS IT IS RIGHT NOW! When nothing on the elevator panel is lighting up. Not even the two emergency call buttons—to the elevator company and to the Fire Department.

It’s very early on a Sunday morning. Literally all of my neighbors on the 6th floor are away for the weekend.

The bell I’m pressing periodically is working but does anyone hear it?

I could be in here for a LONG time.

Various thoughts surface spontaneously in my awareness. They’re surprisingly positive.

It’s good that I’m having this experience… I’m a Board member. Note to self: Remind property manager, “Safety is our number one priority.”

Thank God it’s me and not someone who would need to be sedated. I’m a meditator. I can just meditate.

My cell phone often works in the elevator so I try calling a neighbor. Nope.

I decide to try emailing and texting the Super and neighbors. The messages don’t appear to SEND. Regardless, I have the conviction that Tim, our Super, will get me out.

It’s warm. I take off my jacket, grateful it’s not a hot summer day.

I look at the time on my iPhone; it’s been 10 or 15 minutes already. I realize I’ve done all I can and that my best option might be to meditate or read Pema on “How to appreciate your life—JUST AS IT IS.”

As I move to sit on the floor, the elevator starts to move—gently, slowly, quietly. An elevator that moves has never seemed so wonderful. I hope it doesn’t stop.

The door opens in the basement. Tim greets me with a smile and warmth in his brown eyes.

“Thank you!” I say. “I knew you would get me out.”

“My wife said, ‘I think Alice is in the elevator.'” He showed me a clip from the security camera. Then he waived his iPhone and said, “You sent me a text message.”

In that moment, I feel grateful for Tim and his young wife who was awake enough to notice the elevator bell and check the security camera. I’m also grateful for these ancient practices—meditation and yoga, that help us navigate our lives with ease. I’m aware I could have spent a long time in the elevator—reading Pema, meditating, refining my tree pose—without my blood pressure rising. As Pema would say, “No big deal.”

I highly recommend Pema’s articles and books. Much of the wisdom she shares is foundational and cuts across traditions. From the opening of “How to appreciate your life—JUST AS IT IS”:

We all have moments of appreciating what we see or taste or smell—just as it is. We relax and out of nowhere we accept our experience without wanting anything to be more or less or different. We feel that everything, at least for the moment, is complete. When our mind is open and fresh, we see beauty everywhere, including within ourselves. There’s a sense of savoring the uniqueness of each moment…. We’re in tune with the transience of the world, with its poignancy and its profound richness. —Pema Chodron

Pema then describes the ego as “that which resists what is.” She reminds us that freedom lies beyond our tendency to label experience in negative ways.

Regardless of what’s happening in our lives—whether things are going our way or not, we can cultivate a mind and a nervous system that accepts our experience as it is without resisting it, which makes life so much easier.