The Lost Art of Being Present
“Yesterday was history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift from God, which is why we call it the present” -Bil Keane
Be present. It is a simple and effective phrase to convey a multitude of messages. “Concentrate.” “Enjoy.” “Calm down.” “Have fun.” “It is okay to cry.” Sometimes moments in life are significant enough that being present comes easily: graduations, holidays, milestones. Other moments are more low-key: a meal with a partner, a pre-bedtime story with the kids, a morning workout. Being present in the correct moments invites life-changing thoughts and emotions that could yield remarkably rewarding results. Fortunately, we have the power to choose when to be present and how to be present.
The present is extraordinary, for it is where the world transforms into existence. Most of us are healthy, sane, and safe; despite whatever headlines might be trying to scare us or stress us out from different parts of the world. Sure, there is controversy and negativity all around us, but every generation has had its own form of hardship throughout the years. We are not living in dark times, we are merely living in current times. The sooner we acknowledge that time moves on with or without our blessing, the easier it will be to keep control of our own lives and focus on what really matters; family, friends, community, self. It is unfortunate when the world’s imperfections deprive us from indulging in additional gratification, but it is even worse if they distract us from counting our blessings. The present is not just the best time to be living, it is our only time to be living.
Admittedly, being present is hard. The present flashes into and out of existence in the blink of an eye. Just like a shore is only where water meets sand, the present is only where the future meets the past. The future approaches, and then… BOOM… it immediately becomes part of the past. Fortunately, the mind has a solution to this predicament: context.
Humans have an uncanny ability to provide meaning to moments by pulling data from the past and the potential future: a kid learning to ride a bicycle without training wheels, a student receiving a college acceptance letter, an employee leaving a stressful job. The mind calculates the magnitude of the present by searching outside the present in real-time, then skillfully compiles a vision of the present to justify its results. Sometimes you want to “get this over with” and sometimes you wish you could freeze time. Either way, you always have your thoughts, memories, and emotions to connect to these moments.
Life is a parade of floats that stop for no one. You never know when you might experience something for the first time, or the last-time, or how life might change as a result. It is not just children that have their whole lives ahead of them; we all have our whole lives ahead of us. Now is the time to smile, laugh, glow, flow, melt, and cry. The present deserves your attention. Play piano, read literature, hangout with the kids, strengthen relationships, grind through meaningful work.