Probably the best example in my life—those few months when I had two in diapers and was driving my oldest to school every morning. Remembering that time, it seems like one long blur of trying to load them in the car.
“Can you tie your shoes or should I? Okay. Hurry.”
Next came coats. When did that zipper break?
Then the trek down the driveway, to me a field of landmines, to them a range of treasure. An interesting rock, hurry. A fascinating bug, hurry. A one-a-kind leaf, hurry. Of course, we must stop to pet the neighbor’s cat, hurry.
We reach the car, but the fight has only just begun. Kids are born with an antipathy to car seats. Pick your strategy, but at some point you’ll resort to anything--bribery, brute force or giving up and staying home. Or maybe it’s my lucky day. I actually get to the buckling up. Reaching, leaning, pulling, pushing, fumbling around until you hear that click of victory, and you’re good to go. I turn the key and the engine purrs. I'm only two minutes late, which I can make up if I hit all the lights.
“Mommy.” A giggle from the backseat. “Me do it.”
I know it’s a giant step forward in child development, and my kid is at least six months ahead of the average, but there’s no joy in Mudville. He’s unbuckled his seat belt and he’s out!
Depending on the day, my young children drew me into deep presence, total lack of awareness, mostly I was somewhere in between.
Here’s a few of the ways I define presence now
- Listening- When someone is talking to me, I am listening to them. Sounds simple. But it’s difficult if I’m thinking about what I want to say as soon as she finishes. Or if I already know what he’s going to say. Or I’ve judged the topic unimportant and I’m calculating how long she’ll go on about it. Or I’m worried and my mind is spiraling away on its twentieth rendition of what could go wrong and each detail of how wrong it could go.
- Paying attention during sex- A no brainer, right? Being aware of his fingertips touching me...the changing pressure of his lips on mine. Detecting the texture of his skin. Noticing this….feeling that…you get it. After twenty-five years of marriage, could my mind drift to that library book that’s overdue? That stupid movie we watched last week? All the stuff I have to get done tomorrow? Once. Or twice. Maybe that happened. Not since my sister’s husband died last year. Her grief and loss reminds me to be more present. If my husband dies tomorrow, I want to be able to remember every second of what happened last night.
- Not scarfing food- This is hard for me. I have been a scarfer all my life, so now I have a dedicated practice to increase awareness of the food I eat. Everyday for lunch, I have a salad and my paying attention begins with the sights, sounds, and feelings of washing the lettuce and cutting up the fruits and vegetables. Then I try to eat the salad mindfully, noticing taste and texture and chewing each bite thoroughly. Besides more enjoyment, chewing food longer is good for your health. Read more here….
- Recognizing fear- Last, but possibly most important. Most of us learn young to deny fear, to see fear as an enemy. Fear is a natural human response to threat, real or imagined. We can hide it, ignore it, dismiss it, or minimize it—it won’t go away. Unaware, we don’t realize it underlies and motivates our actions.
Recognizing and being curious
has turned it into a positive force
in my life.
Okay, I'm going long here, so I’ll pick up this subject of befriending fear next week. After all, without fear, there'd be no courage. How does being present look in your life? What's it mean to you to stop and smell the roses?
I'd love to know what you think about all this. Click comments to leave your comment below.