Win Back Your Life By Being Present
To explain the four steps to being present, and to express the amount of work and focus it can take (at least in the beginning), I want to take your mind to the present moment, with something different from your standard blog post:
IN THE NOW
The day is here upon us. Today is all we’ve got.
This minute holds eternity, but oh, our minds are fraught
with thoughts of what we should’ve done, mistakes of yesterday
recalling wrongs, reliving deeds and words that went astray.
Or else we go through motions while our thoughts zoom far ahead
of things to do, of meetings hence, of possibilities we dread.
We eat our food in hurry. We kiss our loves in haste.
We blink at dawn, we glance at moon.
There is no time to waste.
Our calendar is crammed with future things we have to do.
We make our lists, we see its length. Our day is never through.
And when each year is over, we dismay at all that’s passed.
We shake our heads and wonder, “how did time go by so fast?”
We cannot slow the march of time and yet—there is this plan:
If we would live in present now, we’d find a peace at hand.
Be present, fully present in each action that we do.
Stay mindful, fully mindful, of the life around us too.
Let the future be the vision but THIS moment counts—and how!
Eternity is in it. May we learn to live in NOW.
As I write this, the sun sinks behind Catalina Island, sending coral light onto the heavy swirl of clouds blown in from some distant ocean storm. Wind that had vigorously whipped the baritone chimes now only whispers to the jasmine. All falls quiet. Day descending. Night ascending. And so goes the passage of our life. And so goes time.
Some of us may recall slow dancing in the ‘60s as the Rolling Stones wailed out “Ti—iii -iiime, is on my side. Yes it is.” Not anymore. Time seems to favor only those profiled on “The Lives of the Rich & the Famous”. Our days are a blur of perceived demands: from workplaces stretched beyond the leading edge to the bleeding edge, from technology that allows others to locate us even in the privacy of our cars and bathrooms, from children and aging parents who name us and claim us, and from our inability to find options for creating mind sets and actions that can give us a modicum of breathing space and control.
We all can sing the chorus: “There’s too much to do and too little time.” Individually and collectively, we’ve created a commodity worthy of the New York Stock Exchange: Time. We’ve given it all the form and substance of a product for manipulation. We spend it, lose it, waste it, manage it, We’re told to make time, use time, take time, and, if we’ve had a run-in with the law, we might even do time.
Time is the great equalizer, given in singular 24-hour chunks by the rising of the sun and the setting of the moon. No amount of money can buy it, no power can hold it, no army can stop it. And one day we will all lift our eyes to the heavens and want the one thing we can no longer have: one minute more on this earth.
This article is about winning. Oh, not winning fame, fortune, the lottery, the promotion. No, it’s about winning back our life — snatching it away from the blur of to-do lists, technology and work-life pressures.
The opening poem really says it all: may we learn to live in NOW. You see, the more I ponder the sensation of overwhelm and nanosecond speed demands, I realize a number of truths:
Truth #1: Simplicity isn’t simple.
It’s an admirable, essential goal and one I am working on. Note the verb “working”. Present tense. Simplicity takes time, requires an agreement from all those impacted by its requirements. In short, major chunks of “life” could pass by before we really “simplifed” our lives. Thanks to the wisdom supplied by Sarah Ban Breathnach and Simple Abundance, we’ve been given day-to-day wisdom to follow in realizing the already-present abundance without adding to our closet, our bank account, our larder. My purpose here is to offer additional thoughts for getting our minds, and therefore actions, in control of our lives. I’d much rather we lead lives by design rather than by default.
Truth #2: The technology genie will not go back into the bottle.
Once released, our challenge becomes to wisely choose when we access technology’s power. The seductiveness of thinking we are so important that people must find us any time, any place, for any matter, is ego at its worst.
Consider my experience with the man who brought his computer and cell phone along on a four-day cruise from Vancouver to Los Angeles. As I sat on the upper deck of this exquisite, one-of-a-kind ship, watching dolphins chase flying fish, the man emerged with cell phone in hand. After a check-in call to his broker, a call about a party he was attending, and other conversations conducted in a loud voice, he turned to me and announced that the tariff for his calls would be $45 a minute. “Satellite time instead of cell sites, you know, “he asserted smugly.
He was not present. He missed the day. And I think he lost.
Truth #3: Time management creates order and structure. It does not create present moment awareness.
Let me be perfectly clear. This is not a “time management” article. Although you might uncover ideas to apply. I’m not concerned with managing time as much as I am for discovering how to make better choices for what we put in these blocks called “time”.
This is not about finding the latest time-saving devices. We all have a plethora of these. Too often, they’ve become excuses for letting us cram our life with longer to-do lists. We end up working harder and longer to support the gadgets, the watchamacallits and the thingamajigs.
What I want us to consider is taking control, finding personal empowerment in our work lives, our lifestyles, and our relationships. It’s about finding more life in our years and more years in our life. We do not have extra time, but we do have discretionary energy and creativity. And we can learn to be present in the moment.
Truth #4: Being present takes practice.
We used to be present. We felt we had command of our day, at least until bedtime. It’s what happened when we were five years old. Do you remember? Summers stretched into forest hide-aways, street games, lightning bug hunts, marshmallows over campfires, and inner tubes in pools. Christmas took forever to come and birthdays never caught us by surprise.
The luxurious feeling of time on our side probably lasted until high school when we began moving into fast forward. Once into the adult world, tomorrow began to take precedent over today.
Think about it. Watch a child at play. She is totally engrossed in whatever is at hand, even if it only lasts a few minutes. With deliberation she colors the sky yellow, and the grass blue. She’s present to her reality. The little boy is captured by the fort, the pillow fort, the maze of soldiers to combat evil. Together, they seriously build the tree house, squabble over whose turn it is to ride the bike, and in general ignore anything extraneous to the moment. They are unlike the adults who hurriedly complete one task while already thinking ahead of the next “to do”.
What would happen if we, as adults, could capture, practice and reframe the present so at the end of a day, a week, a year, we felt like we have lived life – with its joys and sorrows – in a manner of our choosing?
What would happen if we could tap into that energy source which bursts from nowhere when we’re packing for a long-awaited vacation but which vanishes with equal suddenness when faced with a hated task?
What would happen if we broke out of our same-way-same-day-same-thing orientation and used our inner innovation to find a better-way-another-day-new-thing resource?
What would happen if we could create a way to hold time still, even for a few minutes, so that we didn’t miss those precious-never-to-be-repeated moments?
SO here are two simple suggestions to get you started.
Create a sacred space for regrouping.
This could be your car, your bathroom, your backyard. When you enter this space, ban anything that distracts your attention from simply breathing and noticing your surroundings. Discover something you’ve never seen or heard before. There will always be something. This is like any exercise. The regular practice will allow you to stop — at any given moment — and be in control, centered, and observant.
Keep a NOW journal… a small NOW journal. Maybe the size of an assignment pad notebook. In this journal jot a few words of some event, person, experience, or observation that struck you as meaningful. When my granddaughter Alicia jumps into my bed in the early morning and snuggles like a tiny spoon, I breathe in her child’s essence and note that down in my NOW journal. When a member of an audience approaches me and says, “You had me laughing and crying and thinking. This is what I needed NOW in my life” my heart notes its rhythms and I jot this down. When a juicy strawberry bursts in my mouth, when the sun plays on my roses, when my husband grins as I enter the door — these are all things I note. And when I get the call of a friend who is in pain, I stop everything and listen. This too is part of being in the NOW. You have the idea.
Being present means seeing with new eyes, looking beyond the obvious to that metaphorical magic which takes an event in time and earmarks it as a memory, a “eureka”, an “ah, so”, or an “oh, no”. By consciously collecting these moments, capturing them in word or picture, at the end of a year, you’ll be amazed at how much you have won by being present. You have won back a portion of your life.
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