A few years ago I enjoyed a fabulous adventure to the bonnie land of Scotland, the birthplace of golf. Seven days of spectacular golf with dear friends with no agenda but to enjoy where we are together. It was a bucket list vacation that I dreamed about for years.
Back home, as I flew over the ocean, multiple balls still hung in the air as if I should be there to juggle them. I did not plan on those balls being on my bucket list vacation. They threatened my mind with visions of crashing to the ground while I was away. The overwhelming temptation was to have my mind in two places, hoping that my distracted attention would somehow serve to catch the falling balls across the ocean. What a shame if I had given in to that temptation!
When I am at home, the same temptation attacks each day. I may be having lunch with a friend while thinking of all I have to do the rest of the day, or reading a book and missing entire paragraphs while I mentally try to solve the problem that arose an hour ago. I miss the present moment processing a past that I cannot change, or worrying about a future that I cannot control.
I believe in reflection. The value of processing our past experiences, whether from the last day or from years ago helps heal and aids growth. The enjoyment of dreaming of future possibilities feeds our soul hungry for hope. But only in its rightful place. And its place is not invading moments already reserved for our attention.
The audacious, ambitious challenge is simple. Wherever you are, be there. Joy only shows its face when attention is singular. Such a simple directive, yet so frustratingly elusive!
How might we grow in our ability to be present in each moment?
- Slow down. Give adequate time for reflection so that lingering unprocessed thoughts don’t nag us when we are attempting to be present.
- Pause. Catch your breath before beginning a new event to gather focus.
- Leave attention grabbers behind, like cell phones. Whether on the golf course, at the beach, during a lunch with a friend, or at dinner with the family, be all in!
- Give yourself a generous time margin. When we feel rushed, or the next event looms tightly, calm attention is difficult to maintain.
- Practice focus. Our habits and tendencies tempt us to multitask. Changing our ways will not come effortlessly. Practice makes perfect, or at least moves us in the right direction.
Busyness is not an excuse. Our families and friends ache to see us engaged, looking them in the eye, living as if nothing else in the world matters more than being with them in this moment.
I have to work hard to be present. I know that I have bungled many a vacation trying to be two places at once. The more difficult task is to be where you are in the ordinary days of life when watching the kids or sitting through another long meeting. Joy often surprises us in the mundane.
And so, I encourage you today. Wherever you are right now, be there.