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Introduction from my new book Meditations

    The original Meditations was a series of personal writings by Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor from 161 to 180 AD, recording his private notes to himself and ideas on Stoic philosophy. Marcus Aurelius wrote the 12 books of the Meditations as a source for his guidance and self-improvement. Kirk’s book, by comparison, is also a kind of reference for guidance and self-improvement, but that is where the similarity ends. This book of Meditations is not about Stoic philosophy; instead, it is an allusion to Zen Meditation. Each of the one hundred two images depicted inside represents a unique moment in time. A moment, during meditative walks, where time stands still and the separation between here and there dissolves to become one.

    Kirk’s motivation for practicing Zazen is to be fully present and at the moment, “Awake,” and experience life as it is. The collection of photographs included in this book took almost ten years to acquire using a smartphone. During this time, Kirk discovered the irony of practicing being present and taking pictures to memorialize his experience. Either you are in the moment with nature or taking photographs. You can’t experience both at the same time. The practice of witnessing a beautiful sunrise or sunset can be exhilarating. The connection you feel with the universe can be palpable. However, when your attention shifts and you decide to “capture” that moment, everything changes. You are still present, but now your concern is with other things like aesthetics. Your focus immediately turns to the mechanics of taking a photograph, such as getting an exciting composition. After the picture is complete, you can get back to experiencing nature, but the moment is different. Everything has changed! Expansive and infinite, the cosmos is simultaneously digitized, cropped, and reduced to a postcard's size.

In Search of the Perfect Moment

    I had forgotten about Spalding Gray until last year when a friend reminded me how memorable his live performances were, especially Swimming to Cambodia. Gray was the consummate storyteller. Known for his insightful personal monologues, Spalding Gray built each rendition of his narrative from the memory of the last performance. With each successive presentation, he would refine and perfect them. Swimming to Cambodia was one of these unique theatre pieces on which Gray spent two years developing.

    Swimming to Cambodia was written in 1985, based on Gray’s trip to Southeast Asia, and in this YouTube excerpt he talks about searching for “the perfect moment.” Spalding Gray was constantly searching for one, and believed as I once did, that they could only happen at an unexpected time and place. But, in the past year, “I have experienced more perfect moments than I can count,” which I now believe can be attained whenever we want. The “perfect moment” is where time seems to stand still; it is when we become fully “present.” As Eckhart Tolle puts it in The Power of Now, it is when we mentally are able to be neither in the past, nor the future, but in the “NOW.” Usually, I get glimpses of these moments, which last for a few brief seconds or minutes, but I have known these moments to sometimes last for hours. They can happen anywhere at any time, and I can be doing almost anything. I have had perfect moments when I’ve been in the company of family and friends, at a birthday celebration, in a meeting at work, a quiet lunch, and even when I’ve been alone driving in the car.

    If I’ve made it sound like I can turn these moments on and off like a light switch, well, I can’t. I am not at a place spiritually where I can do that yet. To be present continues to be a struggle. I still worry about my family and friends, agonize over finances, have bouts with depression, and experience emotional pain that is almost palpable, but in time, I hope to reach a level of enlightenment where perfect moments become the norm. If I understand Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D. of My Stroke of Insight correctly, it’s allowing my “right brain” to be more in balance with my “left brain.” For now, I do my best to be aware of my “mind chatter” (left brain) watch it, observe without judging it (right brain), and as a result, be present and in the moment. To be in the moment and present, I’ve come to believe, is always perfect and should be cherished, even if it’s for only for a second.