The Present of Being Present

When we talk about healthy coping skills for life stresses, mindfulness is often mentioned.  We know that focusing on where you are at this point in time rather than reliving past events or worrying about future ones can help refocus your thoughts and priorities and provide a mental resiliency to current circumstances.

But have you ever thought about how your attentiveness to the moment affects others?  Too frequently, one observes a family together but individually isolated as they tap or scroll on their phones. We shake our heads

and say, “how sad.”  Later, while simultaneously finishing up a spreadsheet for work, we text one person while attempting to hold a phone conversation with another.  In our minds that is justified because multitasking is encouraged and considered “efficient.”  But, for whom?

Maybe, just maybe, a part of your mind acknowledges that you missed part of the conversation.  And, possibly some of the following questions arose.  Did you brush those few moments off as unimportant or assume the topic will come up again?  Feel a tiny bit guilty for not listening due to your lack of focus?  Did she realize I was distracted?  I wonder how my lack of attention made her feel.

Ask a military family that has endured separation: Is it the presents that the returning family member brings home or is it the presence of the service member that brings smiles and happy tears to loved ones?  Think back over holidays and celebrations.  What do you remember?  While an occasional gift maybe mentioned, most people talk about the relationships.  Baking cookies with your mom where you talked about everything and nothing.    The fishing trip with your siblings with stories late into the night about “remember when.” The get-away weekend with a friend with time to be silly or serious. 

 “A person wants a witness to his life.”  This is paraphrased from Susan Sarandon’s character in the movie “Shall We Dance.”  People need to be heard.  By having someone listen to their hopes, dreams, and experiences, it confirms the importance of their lives.  That “old man” in assisted living might be a military veteran with an important message for your generation.  To hear that lesson it requires taking the time to see him as a person of value and not an obligation.   This is not just about older people though.  Everyone, including young children, needs to feel they have value.   Listening and engaging with them in a meaningful (not distracted) manner helps them understand their feelings, hopes, and dreams, and helps us to learn from them.  During this time of national stress, many people are feeling isolated and alone.  They do not need a national platform; they just need an engaged you and me.

Maybe the best present you can bring to someone is your time and your attention.  Really listen to what they have to say.  Plan events to create memories–a camping trip, game night, or create a memory book by asking someone about their past.  Plan time to just sit and talk.  It does not have to be time consuming.  Have a meal with no phones.  Put down social media, fix a cup of tea and spend 15 minutes of real engagement with someone who is special to you or who needs a lift. This is a gift we can give anyone.

Then see what wonderful things you learn.  Perhaps it will be what a creative or clever child you have. Maybe the story you expected to hear for the 20th time, may be a new anecdote revealing how your family was a part of history.  Rather than avoiding that time of mourning with a friend embrace it as you embrace them, and you will find the times of joy to be even sweeter.  You may even hear a nice word about yourself during these moments.  For you see, the gift of attentiveness is one which blesses not only the recipient but the giver as well. 


Did you know that the average person makes 30,000-45,000 decisions a DAY!  A staggering number. Many “decisions” are part of everyday habits such as teeth brushing and seemingly may not require much thought.   Also, simple, almost mindless tasks can actually take multiple decisions.  For instance, to read this blog you had to decide when to get on the computer, to ignore the ad that popped on the screen, to link to this site and to look specifically at this blog. 

Jeans levis-3762644__340

The Western lifestyle and technology have brought many of these changes.  In 1875 if you wanted a pair of jeans Levi Strauss & Co. was it.  Now there are colors, styles, sizes, fashion and designers to select from.

Some decisions are in the background of our daily lives.  A noise in the house, based on past experience will be “interpreted”. Without thinking too hard, your brain decides if the noise is burglar (call 911), or the cat riding the robotic vacuum…again (go back to sleep).  How amazing our brains make sense of the world to assist our interactions with it.

Unfortunately though,  coping with excessive decision-making can result in fatigue.  Studies have shown that the brain needs to have time to rest.  One way is quality sleep, covered in an earlier blog.  Some people find meditation or prayer to be helpful.  But for some individuals, quiet time is stressed time.  Those moments of quiet forced focusing devolve into lists of undone and forgotten tasks, or past transgressions screaming for attention.  The next option?  Try doing nothing for a few minutes a day. 

This is also known as practicing Mindfulness rather than Mind Fullness.  For examplPIne branche, recently I heard an unidentified noise.  The brain tried to define it as a car, a vacuum, another mechanical device as these are the sounds I hear the most.  What was it?  Wind in a pine tree.  What had happened, that I was so disconnected from the world that I could no longer recognize wind?!?!   I stopped my day for 30 sec and took that time to reacquaint myself with the sound of wind.  The feeling and temperature of the breeze.  It was a peaceful moment that has come back to me several times since renewing that moment of calm I felt. 

It isn’t hard or time consuming.  You simply stop what you are doing for a few seconds to minutes and use your senses to listen, see, taste, smell or feel what is around you.  And the best part, there is no right or wrong way to do nothing.  You can even be doing something and do nothing.  It is just a practice about being mindful.  About beinightskyng present in the moment.

On vacation with 100 sights to see? Take a minute, stop, look out the window at the view.  No view? Look at the sky, at the stars. 



                                                                                                                           What does silence sound like during different times of the day? Hint silence usually isn’t silent. Unidentified noise?  Focus on it a minute and track it down.  Following that advice lead to the discovery of a pileated woodpecker.  


At the beach look at your feet in the water.  Is the water cold or warm? Is the sand shifting or still?  Can you taste the salt? 


At night are the sheets rough, warm, heavy, or fragrant? 

Coffee morning (2)

Get up 5 minutes early and have your coffee outside at sunrise or at least at home rather than traveling in the car.  How is it?  Too warm, too cold, too sweet? Just right? 

Stop and taste your food.  If you are going to eat something unhealthy at least you owe it to yourself to stop long enough to enjoy it.  

You get the point.  Just try taking a couple of minutes a day and think about how that moment tastes, looks, feels, smells or sounds.  You may just find that a piece of mindfulness brings a bit of peacefulness to your day.