My Aunt Debbie came over the other day and gave my girls the best present, a picture book entitled, What Does it Mean to Be Present?. It’s a beautiful book in a whimsical font on a topic that I haven’t seen many children’s books tackle. Lots of books on friendship and sharing and learning. But not many on “being”.
My daughters love this book, although I’m the one who can’t stop flipping through it, hoping it will rub off on me. My mind being the hamster wheel that it is, I really struggle with being fully present.
Some of my favorite lines from the book are,
“Being present means focusing on what’s happening now instead of thinking about what’s next.”
“. . . savoring each bite of your delicious food.” Similar to my Aunt Colleen’s infamous line on Thanksgiving when we kids gobbled up our plates in 5 seconds after the adults had spent 5 hours cooking it, her famous line is “enjoy every morsel!”
“. . . cuddling with your puppy and enjoying how soft and wriggly he feels.” Roja teaches me to be present each day when she snuggles against me! I’m sure Jenelle’s little Shi Tsu, “Wrigley,” does the same for her!
“. . . noticing when someone needs help and taking the time to give them the help they need.” It’s no coincidence that my Aunt Debbie, who gave me this book, is the most present person I know. She is always volunteering her time at ADOPT, Feed My Starving Children, and helping out friends. Yet she still finds the time to take me on weekly grocery shopping trips, a need that she noticed in my life, and I can feel that she is fully present when I’m with her.
I giggled to myself as I re-read the book yesterday, thinking about what a children’s book about being present would say if it was based on observing my life . . .
. . . “Being present means checking your e-mail while texting a friend, folding laundry and helping your daughter with her homework all at the same time.” “Being present means listening to your husband talk about his new song he is writing while thinking about what to cook for dinner.” “And being present definitely means holding your phone at all times, checking it constantly, while training your guide dog.” This is a post I will not be sending my trainers at Guide Dogs for the Blind, as they would be mortified!
I think most of us call the above example “multi-tasking,” and if we’re looking at it from that perspective, I am a very talented multi-tasker. I think in reality, however, I am very talented at not being present.
Not that I never have fully present moments, but I think it says something when they are rare enough that I journal about them when they do happen. Here is an entry that I wrote this summer, one gorgeous morning in June.
“Today I went on an ordinary morning stroll. Ordinary in that I was just walking like people do, placing one foot in front of the other, over and over in a movement of forward propulsion. But extraordinary in what I was feeling and experiencing. The air had never felt so very much like its own entity against my bare arms, neither warm nor cold, but delighting my skin just the same. And the fragrance of flowers ignited my senses in a way that caused me to inhale them in slow, deliberate sips so that I wouldn’t miss an ounce. My senses acted as if intoxicated, but I had consumed nothing. My consumption was only of the moment . . . fully aware, fully present, fully Joy. “
I’m grateful for the moment I journaled about, though I find myself wanting more moments like these. And I want to model the importance of Being to my children, so that they can find a place of peace in this noisy world of smart phones, iPads, and social media.
I keep re-reading one of the last pages of the book, hoping it will sink deep into my mind:
“Being present means living in the moment. It means realizing that . . . yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery, and today is a gift – that is why we call it the present!”