Where are you right now?
I’m not asking whether you’re reading this on your phone at a stoplight or curled up on the sofa with your iPad. I mean, what’s engaging your focus at this exact moment?
Psychologist Abraham Maslow once stated that “The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness.” The statement is simple enough, but living it out is incredibly difficult.
For the past seven months I’ve been attempting to engage life this exact moment, where I am, with the people around me. Each success is costly, in that I have to sacrifice what I *think* I want for what I know I want.
I sacrifice my longing to check one more thing off my list for my need to engage with My Guy or child or a friend. The result: strengthened relationships, communication, and love.
I sacrifice my longing for the next big thing (trip, event, achievement) to my need for space to process and grow. The result: maturity and peace.
I sacrifice my thoughts of mouth-watering German chocolate cake in order to enjoy the medium-rare steak on my plate. The result: total enjoyment.
I sacrifice my obsession with a perfectly clean and neat house for my need to create a home for my family. The result: rest and fun.
What are some of the hindrances to being present and living life in the now? I’m glad you asked. Let’s take a look, shall we?
“I’m too busy to be present.”
Life is too short to not be present. I think about this in terms of my kids’ ages. The Butt is almost four. That means, if he lives with us until age 18, we’ve already used up 21% of his time in our home. How much of that have I spent distracted?
A good question to ask when you feel a sense of urgency is, What will matter more in 5/10/25 years? That I completed xyz? Or that I fully engaged in this moment of life? This line of reasoning removes both the guilt and the guesswork from our decisions.
“My mind is constantly spinning.”
Thanks for being so honest. I live there, too. Each day our world spins faster, and as we age our minds grow jumbled with all the data stored inside. Sometimes I feel like I can’t even form a coherent thought on paper, much less in regular conversation.
Here’s what I’ve found: by practicing both mindfulness and being in the present moment, I’m able to get those mental whirlwinds under control. No, I don’t expect myself ever to have a perfectly quiet mind (wouldn’t that be nice), but I do expect to cultivate one that better serves me as a whole person.
“Being present is exhausting and/or painful.”
Yup, sometimes it is. And sometimes it’s boring. One of the most shocking revelations of motherhood is how tedious and dull it can be. Even a beloved career or friendship include dry seasons. Life is a novel or a movie with all the boring and exhausting parts left in.
I’ve never seen the Adam Sandler movie Click. However, I have watched enough of the excerpts to have it hammered into my head: I don’t want to rush through today. Today is all I have. Live now.
“I don’t even know what being present means.”
For me to be present for my three most important people, this means setting aside my phone, closing my laptop, and turning off the television. If there is a book or a to-do list nearby, I need to remove that from my line of vision.
I’m not going to lie to you: I’m a workaholic. After my quiet time in the morning, I want to crank life into hyper drive and get the show on the road. But morning is the time of day when my kids need me to be the most present. They’ve been alone for almost 12 hours, and my attitude sets the tone for their day.
Because of this, I keep my laptop tucked away until well after breakfast. To resist the temptation of my phone, I plug it into the speakers and turn on Pandora. I don’t have to do these things, but I’ve found that both practices enable me to purposefully engage with my children.
To be present when at work also means removing those unnecessary distractions and working on the one priority before me at this very moment. So if my task doesn’t involve email, my inbox is closed. If it doesn’t involve research on the web, my browser is closed. If it doesn’t involve technology, my laptop is closed.
“Okay, you’ve made your point. Now what do I do?”
So we’re in agreement here. We acknowledge that life is too short, our minds need calm, and our people need our engagement.
Start small. Try practicing mindfulness for a few minutes each morning. This could mean spending a few minutes in silent prayer, focused breathing, or meditation. The key here is focus. When you find your mind wandering from your silent practice, acknowledge the distraction and gently return to your prayer, breath, or meditation.
And finally, practice grace towards yourself. We are only human. We all fail, and more often than we wish. Life is about growth, not achievement. As long as we are growing, we are succeeding.
So embrace this very moment. It’s the only one you’ll ever have.