For years, I have been working on the elusive ideal of being more present. Having children really brought this concept to the forefront for me. When my oldest child started walking around at 10 months-old, the first thing she wanted to do when she woke up in the morning was to take a walk around the neighborhood. At first, this seemed like a great idea, but I quickly learned that a “walk” meant stopping every 5 seconds to look at a bug, pick up a leaf or examine a rock. This drove me absolutely nuts. I wanted to DO something or GO somewhere. Thankfully, I was involved in a few “mommy & me” groups when my kids were little and I had the opportunity to learn about the value of being “in the moment” with children. It didn’t take much to convince me that this was a good idea, but it has taken everything I have to actually make improvements in this area. (Incidentally, there are two small rabbits hopping around my backyard while I am writing this and I actually stopped and watched them for a few minutes. Pretty good, huh?)
This week, I have been exposed to a couple of teachings on the subject of being present. I guess I was ready for them, because I have experienced a subtle but profound shift in the last few days.
- The first lesson was at the seminar this past Wednesday. Alan gave the following observations about being present: “If you are sad, you are thinking about what happened in the past. If you’re afraid or anxious, you’re thinking about what might happen in the future. If you’re angry, you’re thinking about what happened in the past and what you want to do about it in the future.” Now I am definitely a big proponent for emotional expression, so the thought that these emotions could be indicative of not being present was somewhat shocking to me. But Alan doesn’t recommend that we stifle our emotions in the service of being present. He suggests that we make a regular practice of doing things that are reflective and help us to express and process our emotions (such as meditation, writing, yoga, dancing, hiking, etc.) so that we are freed up to be present, creative and engaged at other times.
- The second lesson came from a book that I just started reading* called “The Way of Action” which was written by a Buddhist intellectual named Christmas Humphreys in the late 1950’s. This book is incredibly dense, intellectual and full of Buddhist terminology and concepts with which I have no familiarity. I can only read a few pages at a time because my brain starts hurting. But I love it. The following quote (from the Prologue!) has really stayed with me this week: “the immediate work, whatever it may be, has the abstract claim of duty, and its relative importance or non-importance is not to be considered at all.”
When I am able to successfully live in the present, it feels like the laws of gravity have been suspended. It can feel utterly disconcerting not to be tethered to the ground by my plans, my fears, my analyses and my regrets, but there’s no doubt that I’d rather fly!!
Just for fun, I am posting a video of Bono and The Edge singing a beautiful acoustic version of “Stuck in a Moment”. Have a great weekend!