In the fall of 2008 I spent a semester studying at the Oregon Extension in Ashland, Oregon. Eighteen strangers gathered there to live on a mountain and exist in community with one another. I lived in a cabin with three other girls. Needless to say, we didn’t remain strangers for very long.
The amazing thing about this semester is that we didn’t have internet, cell phones, or television for the entirety of the three months we spent there. That may sound like torture to some, especially since technology dictates so much of our everyday lives as modern Americans. It was, however, a beautiful experience that allowed us to be fully present in our relationships with each other and our experience together. We spent most of the hours of the day reading and studying. I learned how to camp and how to cook, and I rediscovered how much I absolutely love learning. We invested so much into ourselves and each other without technology there to distract us. We learned how to be, and it was holy.
I feel like most people never understand what it is to be living in the moment except for a spark of perfection and joy and space here and there. I was allowed the opportunity of creating a lifestyle, for three months, in which I got to be fully present in everything I did, every word I spoke, every moment I shared, every book I poured over.
Our professors spent a day right before we left talking about our reentry into the “real world.” Many students, they told us, had an incredibly difficult time with their transition. All the space to think and be is replaced by cell phones, by e-mail, by jobs. All the genuine relationships are scattered around the country and replaced by a thousand surface conversations. All the joy in learning is dampened by students who just want to make it to graduation and never look back. All the interaction with nature is limited to avoiding the raccoon roadkill on my way to work–so sad, but far too true.
Needless to say, I have missed my time at the OE to an infinite degree. I wish everyone could experience it, but I’m sure some people would go loco with nothing but time and silence. My question tonight is how can I bring the art of “living in the moment” to the real world? It’s a question I’ve been struggling with since my return. I just seem to be so busy all the time. It’s rare when I have a moment to stop, to breathe, and to notice how lovely the sky is at twilight.
How do you create space in your life for quietness and reflection? What type of OE moments have you experienced?