Last week I had the opportunity to spend a week with my family enjoying the city of Prague, Czech Republic. As a gift to myself and to my family, I took the week off and completely relaxed. No “working”, no blogging, etc. But, as you might have guessed, my mind kept going even if I didn’t type the thoughts at the time.
I had one experience that I really wanted to share with you, as this blog wrote itself because of this experience. My daughter and son-in-law treated us to the gift of a foot massage at a Thai spa in Prague. But, this wasn’t an ordinary foot massage- it was a foot massage by a school of fish! (I know… when I first heard about this I cringed too!)
The concept sounds easy…. You sit on a couch with your feet immersed in a tank full of fish and the little fish eat the dead skin off of your feet. To make the experience more memorable, you’re facing a plate glass window on one of the busiest pedestrian streets in Prague, with constant tourists passing by.
As I slowly placed my feet into the tank, I have to admit there was a bit of hesitation. Just by dipping my heel into the water the little fish were all over it. The owner of the spa asked me to be quiet, as I shrieked as the fish tickled my foot. The experience was so intense! After a minute or so with just my heel, one at a time, I slowly submerged the rest of my foot into the water, only to have them both immediately covered with about a hundred 2″ fish, busy munching away. It took every ounce of restraint I had, not to kick the fish away or pull my feet out of the water.
After a few minutes, the tickling sensation died down to a constant feeling of movement with just an occasional tickle. What I really noticed was that I could watch one specific fish munch on my toe, and I could feel THAT fish, in the midst of all the other ones. What I focused on mattered. The intense tickling sensation that I originally felt, dulled to what I thought of as background noise, as the feeling from each fish became the prominent feeling- when I focused on it.
My feet were in the tank for 30 minutes, yet it seemed like much less- because I was fully present in the moment. I was mesmerized following an individual fish and concentrating my focus. The experience became a meditation that was only broken when a brave fish would swim between my toes. I had no thoughts of “where are we going for lunch”, “what do you want to see this afternoon” or “do you think it will rain today”… the only thing I could focus on was this experience. I was fully present in the moment.
It was entertaining to watch the reactions of groups of people walking by. Most would look and continue walking for another step, then stop and do a double take, as their brain registered what they were seeing. Most people stopped, pointed, gawked, cringed and eventually, took photos. The camaraderie with the passing community was an important part of the adventure.
It took hundreds of little fish munching on my feet to remind me that what sometimes seems unbearable, can become background noise within minutes, that people can bond over the silliest of things, and that the only moment that truly matters is this very one we’re experiencing NOW.
So today, I’m asking myself… What in my life, that was once a problem, has now become background noise for me? What specific “fish” am I focused on today? How are the experiences of my life today bonding me with those around me? What can I experience today that will remind me of the beauty of being present in this very moment?
In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it helps to remember that life is such a beautiful gift to be treasured, moment by moment. And, we can learn something every day, even if the lesson comes from a school of small fish.