The Moment Just Before…

I believe in experience. It’s all we have to engage our world. Our senses are the only door through which we perceive what surrounds us, all of them interpreted by our brain, itself affected by the world around us. Experience changes people.

This is the potential you assume. What you make of that moment just before walking into your next conference meeting, opening the door to advocate your cause, or commuting home to your family… will make your life more resilient or more weak. Do you blow through that moment, or do you pause?

In The House at Pooh Corner A. A. Milne’s Christopher Robin asks Pooh…

“What do you like doing best in the world, Pooh?”

“Well,” said Pooh, “What I like best–” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.

In The Tao of Pooh Benjamin Hoff writes…

What could we call that moment before we begin to eat the honey? Some would call it anticipation, but we think it’s more than that. We would call it awareness. It’s when we become happy and realize it, if only for an instant. By Enjoying the Process, we can stretch that awareness out so that it’s no longer only a moment, but covers the whole thing.

My great grandmother would sit with her Christmas gift for agonizingly long moments. While everyone else in the room waited in anxious anticipation, she would admire the wrapping paper, regard the bow, finger the fabric. The more others urged her on to the gift inside, the more slowly it seemed she’d unwrap the present. First untying the ribbon, folding it and setting it aside. Now peeling the tape carefully from the ends so as not to rip the paper. Aargh! Then carefully unwrapping the paper from the box and folding it neatly…. Get on with it, Grandma!

But life is not all wrapping paper and bows. What about that moment just before disaster?

This weekend I drove through tornado alley, near Joplin, Missouri, where a 2011 tornado killed 158 and injured 1,150 people. A roadside billboard displayed the scene of destruction with the words: “You never know when the moment right before is the moment right before.”

Three days after the Joplin disaster, 2 tornados slashed through our home county in Arkansas. The nearest crossed 100 yards behind our house. I remember that moment before quite clearly. I stood at the door, listening to tornado sirens that were just distinguishable in the distance while keeping my other ear to the weather radio. My family huddled in an interior closet. The National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office in Little Rock broadcasted the track of a tornado 12 miles away. They didn’t report the second. Neighbor dogs barked wildly. Then the wind died down to silence, and the dogs fell quiet. I waited. I could hear no sirens. Suddenly the wind picked up unnaturally fast. Lightning flashed like a strobe. I ran for cover as rain slashed against the house like we were in a washing machine, and the roar of the proverbial freight train passed behind us.

One man died in that tornado. On the next ridge over.

I am not of the opinion that all things work out for good. The truth is life or death could be waiting for you through that door. The next moment might go either way. Could be epic. Could totally suck. Who knows? You could walk into that conference room and be recognized most valuable employee or shit canned as a derelict. The heavens may open on your commute to bestow enlightenment upon all your family affairs, or texting behind the wheel could take you to the stairway to heaven.

That moment in the Jewish creation story when god reportedly says, “It is good.” What about the moment right before creation, before a word was spoken, in a moment bursting with awesome, cataclysmic potential of universal proportions? *shrugs* It ain’t scriptural, but what terrific awareness must an enlightened being have had in such a moment. What might that moment have been like?

Someone I can no longer remember nor identify said, “I value the writing of someone who has fallen to their knees powerless before experience.”

Preparedness for success or for disaster begins with awareness.

  • …of your self,
  • …of those around you,
  • …of your world.

…and awareness means taking the moment to reflect on the potential.


  • Stop Yourself. Before you go blasting through that door to your power seat at the conference table, make yourself stop to a standstill, take a deep reath, and smile.
  • not-as-cute-as-dorothy-made-itConnect Yourself. My partner wisely reminds me from time to time to take a moment and appreciate the event before me. Nurture relationships with those who know how to smell the flowers. Hold fast to friends who know the value of drinking, smoking and swearing together for no reason at all.
  • Train Yourself. Creating discipline for your mind as a benchmark against all the craziness and a protected space for reflection, whether it’s a religious morning meditation, an exercise regime, or continued career development.
  • Equip Yourself. Use tools that help you pause and reflect. In our home we use a Tibetan Buddhist bell; when anyone rings it, everyone within earshot pauses and takes a deep, long breath. Journal or blog writing is a great exercise in self reflection. Try using


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