On A Whim

It was early. I was out of bed quickly and ready to go as usual, but today I noticed that I felt better than normal. It was nothing euphoric, exactly, nor emotional – which was strange, because I often woke up with one or other emotion in my chest. It was just a general sense that my body and my mind were in working order. I didn’t feel tired or hungry, or slow or discontent. I just felt functional. It was as if I’d woken up to find that a certain set of conditions had slid into place while I’d slept, and today the world had decided to be on my side. As I had my breakfast I recalled that there was a little known word for the feeling that the universe is conspiring in your favour: ‘pronoia’. I mulled it over while watching the summer day begin outside my window.

I ate little and finished my cup of tea as I head outside. Just as I was about to close the door behind me, however, I paused – the sweet dawn air, rich with the warmth of summer, seemed to kiss my skin. I breathed in the fine sugar of the morning. Before me a grand pendulum of trees swayed gently back and forth as if ticking to the rhythm of the universe. Overhead, the sky was light and blue like the finest summer morning you can remember from your childhood.

I felt pleasant, and closed my eyes. A warm, calm wind stroked against my side, and the faint squall of seagulls carried through the mellow sky from somewhere far away. A door closed somewhere down the street. I breathed in a long, satisfying breath, and blew it all out again. Then I glanced at my watch – I had somewhere to be. I closed the door and began to walk.

As I walked I watched my feet tick one after the other: step, step, step, left, right, left, right, left, right. My attention was content to rest on the movement of the soles of my feet, beginning with the hit of my heel against the pavement and rolling forward onto my toes, over and over again. I enjoy being present with my walking. It was something I had practised often, but today my mind was particularly clear and I was able to focus on it better than I normally could. I walked like this for a while, thinking to myself as I went, ‘left, right, left, right, left, right.

The day was becoming warmer, and I could tell that it would be hot. I had anticipated it in wearing only a shirt and leaving my jacket behind, though for the moment I was enjoying the happy chill of the morning air. The streets were still mostly empty. Every so often another pedestrian or a cyclist would pass me, and they too seemed to be enjoying the strange peace that was palpable with every step. You felt that everyone you passed was almost on the verge of a smile – almost, but not quite. Maybe if they had someone to smile to then they would.

I thought again about that word ‘pronoia’. How interesting, I thought, that that word was so little known, and yet its opposite, paranoia, was so prevalent. On a morning like this morning, when the world was as quiet as the mind, it was hard to believe that the universe was anything other than on your side. Just being outside made me feel like I was almost exactly identical to the world I was inhabiting. It was a very pleasant feeling, and as I walked it grew more and more pleasant.

I passed a playground, where two children in school uniform were playing before school. The two of them, a boy and a girl, were laughing loudly and delightfully at each other. The sound made me feel deeply happy. I looked at my watch again, and remembered I had somewhere to be.

But then, on consideration – did I? Where did I have to be? I couldn’t remember. I suddenly realised with some trepidation that I had absolutely no idea where I was going. I looked all round me in the faint hope that something in my surroundings would remind me, but no, nothing. Bizarre! I didn’t know what on earth I was doing.

I looked again at my watch, and considered for a few seconds (which I measured very precisely with the tick of the hand). Then I took it off my wrist, and threw it into a bush.

I didn’t need a watch, I decided. I didn’t need to know where I was going. I turned a completely different direction to the way I’d been going and began walking again.

Why should I have somewhere to be? I found it strange all of a sudden to feel like that. Why are we so convinced that we have to be in a specific place at a specific time in between the two markers we know as birth and death? Why do we stick to routines, and the same tired set of emotions? At any moment I could go wherever I wished, but I almost never did because I was afraid of what other people would think of me. They would definitely get angry me, of course, but today I didn’t care. The world was too pleasant a place to stay the same. And actually, I thought as I went, I think that we only try to stay the same, when in fact we are changing all the time. So today I would be different, and consciously move with the stream of change. Today I would be aimless.

I started up a hill, and as I walked up I wondered whether indeed I was the one walking up, or whether the hill was lifting me – and I concluded that it was both. I took a seat on the dewy grass, drawing my hands around my knees, and once more breathed in that sweet sugar – then I let go entirely, and let the world swim through and over me as I sat back, heart open, mind flowing, like a new river that had finally made its way to the sea. I was calm and happy, and as I let go I felt something stir inside me – or was it outside me? – something that had been within and without me all my life – no, longer than that, longer than my memory would tell me I had existed. I was happening, I thought, I was becoming something. I had realised something important. What was inside me was exactly the same as what was outside me. ‘I’ was the fruit of the world that had birthed me, and therefore I was the same.

And as I sat and let go of every care I had, I felt myself changing. I was waking up. And before long, it had happened – I was awake.

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