Holy Everything: Give yourself the gift of presence

To remain present in the moment at hand is an art. It requires practice, such as woodworking or ceramics or fly fishing. It's easy to be swept up in the currents of the past or the tides of the future. Complete engagement in the here and now is a challenge.

We're heading into that stretch of summer during which we all reflect in disbelief about how quickly the season is passing by. (That is, of course, when we're not complaining about the heat.)

"Can you believe it? It's already the end of July!"

"How can it already be time to think about going back to school?"

"It seems like we were just celebrating Memorial Day."


It's only a matter of time before we're all at the State Fair eating fried food on a stick. And yet, whatever the future will be and however quickly it will seem to arrive, we're here now. In this moment. This is the only place and time we can fully experience. If we spend it in some already-lived past or some unknown future, we'll miss it. We'll miss out on now.

I recently heard a young child outside a restaurant say to her father, "Dad, when I'm a grown up, I want to be a kid again." She already had a sense that time moves quickly and that sometimes people want to go back and have a certain span of time to do over again. She recognized that childhood was wonderful and special, and she wanted to hold on to it.

As the family headed into the restaurant, the dad began to reply, but the only part I heard before the door closed was, "Sweetheart, I know what you mean."

I get what the child meant, too; it's natural to look forward and backward. It's normal to feel nostalgia for specific parts of the journey. Gazing out upon both ends of the life timeline is how our brains go about making sense of the world around us. It's how our lobes and synapses try to keep us safe. Our brains run through all the possible scenarios of anything that ever has or ever will take place. Yet living in the past, present and future simultaneously is exhausting. And it's also impossible. There's no way to be in all those epochs at once.

So let's give ourselves a summertime bonus: the gift of presence. Let's give ourselves permission to spend a few moments of every day fully present right where we're at — be it in a car, in a pew or in an elevator.

Let's take a pause from the incessant multitasking. Let's break from the ol' Facebook, too, and stop comparing our lives to the edited images shared by the masses. Let's just be present in the moments of our daily lives.

There is a time and a place for thoughtful planning. And there is a time and place for visiting old memories and photographs. But the rest of the time, what if we just breathe deep and soak in the present?

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