Time is a pure enigma.
Sure, we have clocks and calendars to keep track of how we spend it.
A form of reference whereby we base a majority of our daily happenings, conversations, important dates or celebrations, how to be sure we stay within the parameters set and such - yet somehow, I'm bothered when I consider how heavily it influences our day to day.
How can I pursue the present when everything around me seemingly pushes for what's next - for more?
When I say a season of "more", I mean the parts of the holiday season known to ask a lot of us - whether or not we find joy by what's expected or asked of us isn't the point.
A season of more can also reach beyond the holidays - it could be the newness of parenthood, a marriage, a move, a death.
In most cases, it seems more is the answer. That focusing on anything but the present is the answer.
If we're not careful to pay attention, the holidays can force our hand in a sense to buy more, do more, eat more, say more and be more than we are capable of for the sake of the season.
All to fulfill the promise of purpose, to be glad.
But is having a "next and more" mindset - to put on a face of having it all together - going to get us to where we really want to go?
Moral of the story: the practice of presence during the holidays can feel like a difficult pursuit.
There's a sense of urgency to get all the things done perfectly by a certain time, not wanting to skip a beat, with the desire to make everything look good, including our own appearances.
We might ask future oriented questions, like:
What are my goals for the new year?
What does my family want to do to fill the seasons' greetings?
How do we get there with a grateful heart and minimal disappointment?
Want to take a guess at my answer?
Before I continue, I want to acknowledge that not everyone's present circumstance is one they prefer to chase after.
So for me to suggest you "be present" =may be the last thing you need or want to hear: and I get that.
The amount of times I've been told something along the lines of "choose joy" or "be thankful" in a moment where I couldn't see or hear past the noise happening was not what would guide me to where I needed to go.
More often than not, what's needed is support to be still, create quiet spaces and prepare a safe room for ugly feelings.
Yes, there are words that are hard to hear and are necessary to take another step (oh hey, wisdom); however, this only ever benefits someone when done in the proper time and place.
So if that kind of message is a bit triggering right now, I'd challenge you to save the rest for later - when it'll serve more as a medicine, and less like a poison.
Keep in mind that in practicing presence, there's a place at the table for both good and bad to be seated. It's all inclusive and every little thing plays a part in where we are and where we're going, no matter how you dissect it.
what is presence
I find joy in describing presence as a "simple power" to be had.
It's not obvious, nor obnoxious; it doesn't announce itself upon arrival (in fact it's hard to embrace).
It doesn't require the attention of others or permission to be attained.
To be present is not a trait that appears with the flick of a wand.
And there's certainly no patch you can slap on your arm to stop considering the future.
Dare I say, presence isn't something we could ever seize with perfection, similar to its' cohesive relative, patience.
There is not always some magical feeling of grandeur we experience anytime we practice it, either.
Gradually over time, as our intent behind present moments continues, we can see and feel a positive shift in our mental, emotional and spiritual wellness. Will hardships still come our way? Absolutely - and we'll be better equipped for it when it does.
To pursue presence is how we get to know ourselves better (I mean, we are the one's we are with every second of every day for our entire lives on earth). We learn our strengths, our flaws, what we have to offer, and how to grow closer to others by leaning into the words they speak and the experiences lived out together.
Presence is when we're engaged in the here and now.
Not thinking about how we can share the moment with anyone who wasn't there until later. Paying little attention to what might have happened elsewhere, or what could be happening in the near future.
Pursuing presence is having awareness of what's going on around you, internally and externally, in that moment.
To focus your attention on the person, rather than what you're having for dinner later.
To keep your phone beyond arms reach when hanging about with your loved one(s).
why is it important to pursue presence
In no particular order:
1) Lessen the harsh blow of anxious thoughts when they arise, rather than expect to prevent them entirely. In other words, more control of thoughts about things you can't control.
2) See more clearly in tough situations. Rather than base our decisions on numerous unreasonable factors that can lead us into a tail spin. By not overstimulating our senses and reaching for all the things all at once, we become more steady.
3) Reminded of the simple pleasures accompanied by gratitude. In the minute you're standing in, not just what you hope for or expect to have "one day".
4) Learn to appreciate your limits and ability to hold boundaries. Not enough time to get into it here, but where most people find it encouraging to say "reach beyond your limits", I see it as a toxic expectation. Sometimes protecting something or someone is more important than challenging yourself to "grow" by someone else's definition of the word.
presence in action
One of the biggest roadblocks to practicing presence are distractions.
Not all things that distract us are necessarily bad or wrong, they usually just need be put to the sidelines until later.
Technology is the easiest distraction that deters us from being present, but it's certainly not the only one.
I think it's important that we be able to call our and recognize what those are - and they differ from person to person; from what worries you, what you like, what enlightens you, what you hate.
When it comes to our phones or computers, it's helpful to set a "nap time" for those things.
Sure, we have silence and do not disturb options, yet we still have it in our pocket or on our table in front of us. With a flick of a switch in our wondering minds, we habitually reach for it when we think of something "to look up", and then forget what we went on it for in the first place.
Periodically throughout the day, if it's areal struggle for you, I suggest putting your phone down for a nap - in a drawer, on a high shelf, locked in the car outside.
Another way to practice presence is to seek out parts of your day to be mindful (aka intentional)
This doesn't have to be a chore as some of us might make it. Your planner or phone doesn't have to be filled with tasks or events. It's really in the blank space in between the blotted lines where the greater things happen anyway.
Sometimes presence is taking an unplanned nap because you paid attention to your body and felt that physical rest is what you need. The act of being present is not always going to be "meditation" or "deep conversations". It's not a one size fits all sort of hat we put on.
It's a simple act of listening, watching, feeling, tasting, and seeing what's in and around you.
Feeling the ground beneath your bare feet, or the rain as it falls upon your head.
The nutty aroma exiting the cafe as you walk by, and the salty breeze from the sea.
Directing your gaze toward the dark night sky, with hints of distant blazes.
The taste of a home cooked meal prepared by hands of a stranger or friend.
The strumming of a melody heard through your headphones.
To practice presence isn't just the attention we give to our current situation, it's intentionally allowing space for all the parts that make up that very moment.
I'll wrap this up with a bit of a confession.
Practicing presence is often sticky for me.
I put a lot of my worth into tasks, and sometimes presence isn't something to be placed on a scrap of paper (as noted earlier with the "blank space" reference).
I hunger to be a part of something great, and it's easy for me to doubt that I'm already living in the good enough moment that I seek.
Yet I am, and you are too.
We don't need perfect, we don't need more.
We just need enough.
You know that quote "these are the days...", well, as much as I cringe to type it, they are.
Today will be what it is, and I hope you can be in it, loosening your grip a little more from the numbers on the clock or the expectations and promises of a brighter tomorrow.
Trust there is enough for you here, right now.