The present moment is the only moment.
I’ve learned this to be true, especially in terms of “bookish” knowledge. However, I’m less accomplished regarding putting this information into consistent practice.
“Visceral Awareness” (see previous entries) sets the stage for “Present Living,” I believe, because if we’re not in touch with our bodies it will be hard to engage with what’s going on outside of our bodies. In fact, if we’re not noticing our breathing or making any effort to discern the emotions that lay beneath our physical symptoms, we possess almost zero chance of really noticing what’s happening around us.
We live in an age when we’re more connected than ever before through technology, and more disconnected than ever before through technology. The paradox is ubiquitous. As I write this I’m sitting at a gate in Chicago’s Midway Airport, waiting to board a flight home to Nashville. I’m glancing around, and I see cell phones in nearly everyone’s hands. Some are eating while they stare at their devices; others simply stare at them. Some people are together, but still staring at their phones. There are a few folks who are just staring into space, and there’s at least one or two creepy people staring at me. (Not really.)
The lack of connection within the present moment involves either a person or an activity and, often, both at once.
I find it incredibly rewarding when an individual gives me their full, undivided attention. It’s a real compliment. The person isn’t playing with their phone, or looking around the room for that hypothetical “more interesting” individual. I also find it very enriching when I give my full attention to someone. I feel energized and often learn something new. It feels like an act of love or empathy.
Getting “lost” in an activity–just one activity–is also a peak experience. When I give something my all, whether it’s cleaning my house, writing a chapter, or simply walking in nature, I sense an extra degree of pride and fulfillment. I think there’s truth in the declaration that anything worth doing is worth doing well, just like any person worth being with is worth being with fully.
We fear a lot of things these days. One of our biggest fears might be boredom. Detaching from the present moment is one way to elude boredom. Another big fear is suffering. If the present moment is uncomfortable or even painful, then detaching provides the illusion of temporary relief.
A third fear could be the toxic drive we sometimes have to please others. By striving to be as connected to as many different people, situations, and platforms as possible in any given moment, we are subconsciously mitigating our fear of somehow being left out of the conversation or the information loop. If we’re left out, we’re rejected. And yet if we keep disconnecting from being present with others, we are unwittingly rejecting them.
Are you still reading this? Pause now and notice how engaged you are with people on a regular basis. What interactions did you have earlier today, and what was your quality focused attention? Take the same evaluation toward any activities you’ve attempted in recent hours. Were you fully there? Even as you read this, are you fully here reading this? It won’t offend me if you’re not (I won’t know), but you might be missing something helpful.
I’m going to try an experiment across the next few days. I’m going to practice giving my full attention to everyone who’s communicating with me in any fashion. I’m going to do the same thing with each activity. Do this with me, and then we’ll compare observations.